I’m Benjamin Studebaker.
I am an American with a PhD in Politics and International Studies from the University of Cambridge. I’m a political theorist. I teach and publish in both contemporary political theory and the history of political thought. I’m also interested in political economy, ethics, and international relations. My published academic work tends to focus on legitimacy. I got my BA in Politics from the University of Warwick in 2013 and my MA from the University of Chicago in 2014.
I started this blog in August 2012 as an outlet for my thoughts, hoping to build an audience for the future. That future is in the process of arriving. I’ve been doing this since I was 20 years old, and my views have changed over time – please do not assume I agree with everything I’ve written or said since 2012. At every stage, I have tried to help my readers think about how best to help poor and working people. But this is really difficult. Many strategies and tactics that look helpful turn out to be mistakes. So, you’ll see me change positions now and then, even as my motivation remains largely the same.
In addition to the posts you’ll find here, my work appears other places. I use the blog to alert followers whenever I publish new written work, here or elsewhere. You can follow by email, through Twitter, or through Facebook. The email option is at the bottom of the page. Here’s a list of my off-site publications with links where available.
- The Chronic Crisis of American Democracy: The Way is Shut, Palgrave, 2023
- The Crisis of Liberal Democracy: A Theory of Legitimacy (Work in Progress)
- Legitimacy Crises in Embedded Democracies, Contemporary Political Theory, 2023
- Plato as a Theorist of Legitimacy, International Journal of the Platonic Tradition, 2023
- What Can the Health Humanities Contribute to Our Societal Understanding of and Response to the Deaths of Despair Crisis?, Journal of Medical Humanities, w/Daniel George, Peter Stirling, Megan Wright, & Cindy Cain, 2023
- Equality of Political Participation versus Equality of Political Capabilities: A Fundamental Dilemma at the Heart of Democratic Theory (The Heart of Isonomia), Isonomia, 2023
- The Republican Model and the Crisis of National Liberalism, Cosmos + Taxis, 2022
- Legitimacy, Inequality, and Conceptions of Democratic Crisis, University of Cambridge, 2020
Other Academic Work
- Research Assistant for How Democracy Ends by David Runciman, 2018
- Citizen-Eject, Sublation, 2023
- The American University System is a Rotting Carcass, Sublation, 2022
- Proportional Representation is a Terrible Idea that the Left Should Not Embrace, Current Affairs, 2022
- Thinking More Clearly About the Idea of Rights, Current Affairs, 2022
- How to Be Excellent, Pysche, 2021
- Coronavirus is Coming for Education, The Bellows, 2020
- The Ungoverned Globe, Aeon, 2020
- The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War with China, New Republic, 2019
- Why a Public Option Isn’t Enough, Current Affairs, 2019, w/Nathan Robinson
- How the Left Should Think About Trade, Current Affairs, 2019
- How Zizek Should Have Replied to Peterson, Current Affairs, 2019
- National Self-Determination is Overrated, Current Affairs, 2017
- The Siren Song of Austerity and the Erosion of the Centre, In the Long Run, 2017
- What Really Happened on Super Tuesday, Huffington Post, 2016
- Bernie Sanders is More Electable Than People Think, Huffington Post, 2016
- Why Bernie vs Hillary Matters More Than People Think, Huffington Post, 2016
- Sanders vs Clinton Economic Inequality, E-IR, 2016
- The Lack, 2021-Present
- Political Theory 101, 2019-Present
For professional inquiries or help with accessing articles that aren’t readily available, please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don’t bombard me with requests to run ads or link to outside content. Please do send me nice messages about posts you’ve enjoyed or offers to write for cool publications, give cool presentations, and go on interesting podcasts. I like to read, write, and talk about politics – I am not interested in promoting other people’s content on my blog and I will not pay you to promote my content.
I will often do in-person public speaking engagements if you cover travel expenses.
I am interested in working as a full-time academic political theorist.
I will consider other job offers that involve meaningful political work that contributes to the welfare of poor and working people.
- University-Wide Student-Led Teaching Awards, Best Undergraduate Supervisor, 2020 (Nominated)
- Queens’ College Prize for Outstanding Contribution to College Education, 2018 (Won)
- Politics Department Supervisor Award, 2017 (Nominated)
Cambridge Teaching Details
Teaching Associate, Gonville and Caius College, 2019-2020
PhD Supervisor, 2016-2020, for Queens’, Gonville and Caius, Newnham, Girton, Selwyn, Homerton, et plus
- The Modern State and Its Alternatives (POL 1)
- International Conflict, Order, and Justice (POL 2)
- The History of Political Thought to c. 1700 (POL 7)
- The History of Political Thought, c. 1700 to c. 1890 (POL 8/POL 10)
- Political Philosophy and the History of Political Thought from c. 1890 (POL 11)
- Undergraduate Dissertation (POL)
- Political Philosophy (PHIL 10)
- Evidence and Argument (History and Politics)
- Interviewed Prospective Students for Newnham
Thank you for the insight, I’m still trying to get my head around the variety of different qualifications and paths available. I’ve just taken a look at some of the research MScs you mentioned and I can see the advantage of doing such a degree over say an MPhil at Oxford or non research MSc at LSE, at least for those wishing to pursue doctoral research.
I’ll have to look more into it but in the mean time good luck with your application, from what I’ve seen on your blog I have no doubt you’ll do well.
Thanks Mrs. Niedner! You are of course more than welcome to read my blog. 🙂
Thank you kindly for your support–I am just now returning from a week and a half of vacation-induced reduced blogging, so I expect my regular readers are somewhat annoyed with my deviation from my normal very-nearly-daily blog schedule. I shall need to offer them a good dosage of regular-style posts to remind them why they bother with me, so I shan’t do a full Liebster post–but I will endeavour to answer your eleven questions:
1. I am not yet sure where I would choose to live–my life is at present divided between attending university in Britain and my original life in the United States. I suppose I would choose to live wherever was most conducive to my planned future academic work.
2. The undergraduate dissertation I’m presently working on in preparation for my move to graduate school next year will, ideally, be the best piece of creative work I will have produced as of yet.
3. If it were possible to do the things I write about in a real and meaningful way (i.e. run the state in accordance with my political and moral theory) then to do otherwise would have to be a grave injustice–so I’ll go with doing things.
4. I am of extremely negligible musical talent, but if somehow I were a musician tomorrow, I imagine I would do film, television, and video game scores and soundtracks.
5. This blog exists both to record my own ideas for my own use and to hone my craft in preparation for future work in academia. If it can entertain and/or inform, I’m overjoyed, but I have not gone into this intending for it to be overwhelmingly popular, and will write about erudite or obscure topics from time to time despite the unlikelihood of such posts garnering many hits.
6. I think writing that only entertains is trite and writing that only informs is poor. If I could only do one but not the other, I would just as soon not write at all.
7. George Carlin and Louis CK rank highly with me.
8. Istanbul would be the most dissimilar place I have been–most of my travels have, to this point, been either within the United States or to Western European cities.
9. My iGoogle, which I will have to replace prior to November, as Google plans to discontinue it.
10. Presently I do not know enough information about where my life is going to have an opinion as to my satisfaction with it–I am still awaiting several replies to graduate school applications. I will know more by March’s end, I expect.
11. None of these questions were the least bit distressful, and I thank you for the opportunity for self-reflection.
FYI, whether you respond further or not is entirely up to you. No further asteroids will strike (beyond those already on there way) .. no penalties.
Be true to your vision!
FYI, your educational goals resemble mine … until I collided with John Rawls and decided that what I cared about was as well answered as I wanted it to be. Well … that and the fact that my alternate career choice (different PhD) allows me more variety and less focus. My preference, not everyones.
I have much respect for Rawls and Rawlsians–it’s a very strong theory of justice. I take a few minor issues with it at the margins (Rawls sees a bigger conflict between utility and priority than I think exists and I differ with Rawls on democratic theory), but broadly speaking, much of it is, in my opinion, very solid. If you don’t mind my inquiring, what alternative PhD did you choose?
I will absolutely defer to you on the Rawls details, details of that sort are, I realized, not my own strength being a more right-brained creative type. That makes my PhD choice sounds particularly odd: Biostatistics. That degree gives me entree to almost any field of science that requires some sort of formal test of the “truth” of the results. So, I get to dabble and tap my creativity in: 1) applying my tools to their work; and 2) explaining the results in comprehensible ways.
hi!This was a really surepb post!I come from roma, I was fortunate to search your blog in googleAlso I get much in your topic really thank your very much i will come again
I’m guessing you are a fairly young person. During my 40 years of teaching (now retired) I met many younger as well as older students. Your writing seems to me very poised, mature, thoughtful, and thought-provoking
All the best to you with this blog and your future career. If it should be in academia, I’d predict you will be successful with both your research, writing, and publishing; as well as with your teaching.
Thank you so much–good feedback on what I’m writing is extremely gratifying. As a general rule, I refrain from writing about my blog on my blog because regular readers of my blog come to my blog to read my blog, not to read about it. I will however answer your ten questions:
1. A lot of friends told me that if I were to blog, they would read it. Plus I had some time on my hands last summer and wanted something intellectually stimulating and creative to do. Once I started, I found I quite liked doing it, so I’ve kept it going long after my summer break ended.
2. It would have been crazy to go into this under the expectation that it would be widely read, so instead I went into it thinking “I’ll write about what I’m thinking academically and slowly create a bank of my own thoughts for myself”. The key thing was that they were to be my thoughts, not things I had read elsewhere, and I wanted them affiliated with me, so I just used my name.
3. I read Paul Krugman’s blog every day. I try to link to it whenever I get part of an idea or a graph from over there.
4. If I were actually running the state, I wouldn’t just be putting ideas to keyboard, I would be implementing them, so I suppose that would be my dream job–to run the state.
5. Half-empty. Optimists are happy people, but they make for bad political theorists because of their tendency to have unrealistic views concerning the benevolence or malleability of human nature. The best theories account for the unhelpful ways in which people are likely to behave rather than whitewashing them.
6. I love the Mediterranean. It is both warm and full of Greek and Roman ruins.
7. I am irrationally picky about food and could list a very large number of foods that I do not eat. There is no justification for it; it’s just a fact about my nature that I accept.
8. If it’s ice cream, dark chocolate. If it’s a candy bar, milk chocolate.
9. Anywhere from less than an hour to a couple hours, depending on how much research the post in question requires.
10. I stream on Netflix and watch a handful of shows as they come out via their respective catch-up sites, but watch very little live television (in part because I grew up without cable or satellite–we only got the broadcast networks). A few favourites past and present would include Avatar: The Last Airbender, House of Cards, House MD, Game of Thrones, Rome, Arrested Development, and quite a few others–I enjoy film and television as a form of escapism from the mundane and as emotive art forms more broadly. Narrative and metaphor can be used to fool us intellectually, but remain smashing good fun nonetheless.
Benjamin, now that I have read a few more of your pages I have a better understanding of where you are. If some of my prior comments on your blogs seemed offensive to you, I apologize. Keep up your excellent work! The internet needs more bloggers of your intellectual skills and highly rational philosophy. I look forward to reading a lot more of your works. Best of luck in your educational pursuits.
Thank you–no worries, I’m not offended.
Thanks for following! I look forward to hearing your view.
There’s definitely room to debate the .87 figure. I went with it because it barely excludes Greece, which I think is definitely not ready to host these kinds of events, but barely includes the UK, which I think is definitely capable. However, the fact that the UK is so close this line might be evidence that my thinking is wrong with respect to the UK–perhaps the threshold ought to be higher still.
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy my work. Mill has been a great help to me in clarifying many questions–his harm principle, in particular, is a tonic. Congratulations on starting university and beginning your own blog. I expect you’ll find, as I found, that it is tremendously helpful in structuring one’s thoughts and observing their evolution. Over the last couple years, I have slowly constructed an encyclopedia of my own thought here. With a quick search, I can find the old threads of ideas I haven’t played with in many months and revive them as if I wrote about them yesterday. Feel free to request my input on any question or idea that interests you.
Thank you very much! I’m very happy to have you as a reader.
Thank you for reading, Sonia! I’m glad my writing has had such a positive effect on you.
Thanks Angelos! I’m glad you’re enjoying my writing. I’ll take a look at your blog.
I’m not currently running a FB page devoted to the blog (though I have a personal page and do post blogs there–you could friend me, I suppose). I also stick my blog posts on Twitter and can be followed via e-mail.
Haven’t done a full post on marijuana specifically, but I cover drug laws a bit in a couple places.
This one pretty good:
I would, if it’s not accounted for in 13 Terrible Tory Counterarguments:
Benjamin, the trouble with your political comments is you are all theory and have probably never done a days work in your life. Britain is absolutely booming right now. I work in recruitment and we simply cannot find enough candidates. You are commenting on the government, however you are not eligible to vote. The USA is also riding pretty high so you should be very very grateful that whoever is in power right now happens to be doing a great job! Both countries are booming with very high employment. Get a job in the real world.
That’s not what the data says. Personal experiences are anecdotal and misleading. Data compresses the personal experiences of thousands or millions of people and gives us much better information. Neither of these economies are doing well on a historical scale, both enjoyed much higher growth rates in previous decades, but without a background in the data too many people look at their own situation relative to last year and assume that tells the story…
It’s evident, Fishy dear boy, that you know very little about the real world. Perhaps if you looked at the macro-economic pointers or even glanced at a serious news source every now and again, rather than sitting at your desk marvelling at the, what… tens of unfilled vacancies, then you might learn to look beyond your narrow little assumptions.
“Absolutely booming” and “very high employment” might, without much intelligent scrutiny, seem like cool phrases, but no thoughtful person is fooled.
Benjamin, I’m sure you understand far more about world economies and the socio-politcal influences that evolve around the globe than I ever shall but if you start off in the wrong place you are never going to see the essence of British politics, even if you live with it for a thousand years compressing and analysing data every moment.
It is ALL about the anecdotal and it’s ALL about the personal experiences with the UK electorate. It’s not about the data because data isn’t trusted – it’s scrubbed, cleaned stretched and applied over whatever form the commentator is creating at any given time.
The only data we need to vote the way we do is the data that says today feels better than yesterday and it happened while these people were running the shop. More of that tomorrow please and I’ll keep on voting for it until it all goes wrong.
The 1997 Labour government inherited a decent economy from the departing Tories, voted out because everyone had had enough of the sleaze surrounding the party at the time. The economic data meant diddly-squat; it was how people felt at the time. And this time will be same… it could even rely on the weather on May7th (windy gusts with showers and sunny spells, settling later)
So, data can be pretty interesting, it can paint great pictures and predict all kinds of outcomes but if you rely on it to take the temperature of a British election or to colour the beliefs of those voting then you are looking in the wrong direction. I’m guessing you can see the distant sea-bathing figure of Neil Kinnock in 1992.
I definitely welcome further sharing of my material, as long as you do three things:
1. Link people to my original post
2. Don’t claim authorship
3. Let people know that it’s a translation and that there may be subtle differences in meaning (unfortunately I do not read Dutch and can’t verify it).
Ok, great! Those sound like very reasonable conditions. I can’t find your email adress anywhere, so could you send me an email please, so that we can work out the details?
I’m struggling to find your e-mail as well, so here’s mine:
Britain spent 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, or £11.7 billion. Under Cameron, total UK government spending has been cut from 49.7% of GDP to 44.4%, a total cut of 5.3 points, so eliminating foreign aid and returning that money to domestic government spending could reduce austerity from 5.3 points to 4.6. This would still leave 86% of the total austerity intact.
I have read The Prince and The Discourses and took a course on him when I did my MA at Chicago, but for whatever reason I neglected to put him on this little list.
Thanks Mano–I appreciate your ability to see value beyond ideological differences. It’s increasingly rare these days…
I really appreciate the praise. That sounds like a fun idea. Generally I just reply to comments I receive if I have time and a worthwhile response comes to mind.
People like Fishy were making similar comments in 2007, and we all know how that turned out.
Thanks for your posts – very insightful. How the next few years/decade turn out, from an economic and political perspective will be truly fascinating.
The levels of debt slushing around the global economy are quite worrying, and we are surely starting to see the beginning of a period of deleveraging. If this is true, then issues of inequality will surely become even more relevant as people can’t fuel their need for consumption via debt funding, and perhaps this is starting to be the case with the rise to popularity of economists like Piketty and politicians like Bernie.
In a perverse way, I am really looking forward to see how the next few years play out.
There’s a strong chance of a recession this year, though it’s hard to say yet whether it will be big or small. Doubtless it will increase the pressure on the establishment ideology, but I worry about the people who will be negatively affected…
If you scroll down to the bottom of any page on my site, it says “Facebook Updates” with a box underneath it. Inside that box, there’s a smaller box that says “Like”. Click that, and you should be good to go. If you have any trouble with it, feel free to send me a follow up.
Absolutely agree! Bravo
You see the same trends at the same points in time either way:
I’ve increasingly found that my comments sections are too distracting for me–instead of working on my thesis or working on new posts, I get mired in the comment swamp. For the sake of my own productivity, they needed to go.
I understand. At the heart of blogging, however, is the feedback between writer and reader and the sense of community that can result. Perhaps better viewed as a species-rich rainforest, rather than swamp. Best wishes with the thesis.
If you want to comment directly on future posts, I invite you to follow me on my Facebook page, where I continue to selectively respond to comments.