Laura Valentini home | bio | projects | publications

Associate Professor of Political Science

Department of Government

London School of Economics

London WC2A 2AE, U.K. 


My research interests and projects can be grouped under three headings: (i) liberal ideals in a globalizing world, (ii) the methodology of political theory, (iii) the moral authority of socially constructed norms.


Liberal Ideals in a Globalizing World

Liberal ideals—such as justice, democracy, freedom, and rights—were originally articulated in a world made up of relatively independent sovereign states. What implications do they have for our increasingly globalized world? Can the core ideals of the liberal tradition help us make sense of our existing political conditions? Should they be reinterpreted? If so, how? In my current and past research, I have addressed these questions in relation to a number of core liberal ideals. Representative publications in relation to each ideal are listed below. At present, I am focusing on rights, examining how human rights, understood "politically" (i.e., as imposing constraints on the behaviour of entities with sovereign authority), relate to the notion of natural rights. 

Justice, beneficence, and humanitarian aid

  • Justice in a Globalized World: A Normative Framework (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

  • What’s Wrong with Being Lonely? Justice, Beneficence, and Meaningful Relationships, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 90 (1) (2016), 49-69

  • Social Samaritan Justice: When and Why Needy Fellow Citizens Have a Right to Assistance, American Political Science Review, 109 (4) (2015), 735-749

  • Canine Justice: An Associative Account, Political Studies, 62 (1) (2014), 37-52

  • Justice, Charity, and Disaster Relief: What, if Anything, Is Owed to Haiti, Japan and New Zealand?, American Journal of Political Science, 57 (2) (2013), 491-503

  • Coercion and (Global) Justice, American Political Science Review, 105 (1) (2011), 205-220

  • Global Justice and Practice-Dependence: Conventionalism, Institutionalism, Functionalism, Journal of Political Philosophy, 19 (4) (2011), 399-418

  • On our Duty to Withhold Aid now to Save more Lives in the Future, Ethics & Global Politics, 4 (2) (2011), 125-134

  • Egalitarian Challenges to Global Egalitarianism: A Critique (with Christian Barry), Review of International Studies, 35 (3) (2009), 485-512

  • Arguing for Assistance-Based Responsibilities: Are Intuitions Enough? (Critical discussion of themes from Barry and Øverland’s book Responding to Global Poverty), Ethics & Global Politics (forthcoming)

  • Two Pictures of the Global-justice Debate: A Reply to Tan, response to critic, in Law, Ethics and Philosophy, 2 (2014), 219-226

  • Global Justice and the Role of the State: A Critical Survey (with Miriam Ronzoni), in Thom Brooks (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Global Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming), accepted for publication.

  • Just War and Global Distributive Justice, in David Held and Pietro Maffettone (eds), Global Political Theory (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), 143-57.

  • Microfinance, Poverty Relief, and Political Justice (with Miriam Ronzoni), in Tom Sorell and Luis Cabrera (eds), Microfinance, Rights and Global Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 84-104.

  • Cosmopolitan Justice and Rightful Enforceability, in Gillian Brock (ed.), Cosmopolitanism versus Non-cosmopolitanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 92-110.


Human rights

  • Dignity and Human Rights: A Reconceptualization, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 37 (4) (2017), 862-885

  • Human Rights, Freedom, and Political Authority, Political Theory, 40 (5) (2012), 573-601

  • In what Sense Are Human Rights Political?, Political Studies, 60 (1) (2012), 180-194

  • On the Justification of Basic Rights (critical commentary on Rainer Forst’s work on basic rights), Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, 45 (3) (2016), 52-63.

  • Human Rights and Discourse Theory: Some Critical Remarks, research note on Seyla Benhabib’s Dignity in Adversity, in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 17 (6) (2014), 674-680

  • Human Rights, the Political View, and TNCs: An Exploration, in Tom Campbell and Kylie Bourne (eds), Political and Legal Approaches to Human Rights (London: Routledge 2018), 168-86.


  • Freedom as independence (with Christian List), Ethics, 126 (4) (2016), 1043-1074

  • Kant, Ripstein, and the Circle of Freedom: A Critical Note, European Journal of Philosophy, 20 (3) (2012), 450-459


The Methodology of Political Theory

My work on the methodology of political theory is linked to my substantive interests. In considering how liberal principles fare in response to fast-changing political circumstances, I was prompted to reflect on the relationship between moral ideals and empirical facts. My research in this area includes two main strands. One focuses on the debate on so-called ideal vs non-ideal theory. The other, which I am pursuing at the moment (in collaboration with Christian List), explores the extent to which political theory, as a discipline, can draw on insights from the philosophy of science and social science. Representative publications for both strands are listed below.


The Moral Authority of Socially Constructed Norms

A familiar debate in political theory revolves around the question: Do we have a moral obligation to obey the law because it is the law? The literature is polarized between those who answer in the affirmative and “anarchists,” who answer in the negative. What brings all of these scholars together, however, is their focus on the authority of law in particular. In the present project, I broaden this focus, and treat the law as just one instance of a wider class of phenomena: socially constructed norms (i.e., norms that exist as a matter of social fact). I ask when and why (if ever) socially constructed norms are morally binding. The project consists of two parts. In the first, I develop a general framework for answering this question. In the second, I apply my framework to three important issues in political and legal theory: the grounding of rights, the obligation to obey the law, and the value of individual and collective sovereignty.


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