Academic Profile

People Feature

Samuel Bagg

Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics

I received my PhD in Political Science from Duke University in 2017, and spent the next two years as a postdoctoral fellow with the Research Group on Constitutional Studies at McGill University. I arrived at Nuffield in September 2019.

My work integrates critical theories of power with empirical social research in order to enrich the theory and practice of democracy. I have articulated this practice-oriented, interdisciplinary approach in some of my published work. In other articles, I put this method into practice, engaging biological perspectives on human nature, theories of cultural evolution, the cognitive science of motivated reasoning, and empirical research on political behavior and institutions.

I am currently finishing a book manuscript called The Dispersion of Power: A Critical Realist Theory of Democracy, which presents a novel framework for understanding democratic practices. On my account, the value of familiar institutions like competitive elections and universal rights is not to achieve collective self-rule through meaningful political equality, but simply to make it more difficult for partial factions to capture the concentrated power of the state. Meanwhile, the key imperative for further democratization is not to improve the rationality or fairness of collective political decisions but to disperse social and economic forms of power between asymmetrically empowered individuals and groups. The theory thus offers a realistic defense of basic democratic procedures alongside a critical diagnosis of their failures and a robust agenda for further democratization.

Samuel Bagg


2019. “An Adversarial Ethics of Campaigns and Elections", with Isak Tranvik, Perspectives on Politics. (ungated)

2018. "The Power of the Multitude: Answering Epistemic Challenges to Democracy," American Political Science Review. (ungated)

2018. “Beyond the Search for the Subject: An Anti-Essentialist Ontology for Liberal Democracy,” European Journal of Political Theory. (ungated)

2017. “What Makes a Political Theory Political? A Comment on Waldron” Political Studies Review. (ungated)

2017. “When will a Darwinian Approach be Useful for the Study of Society?” Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. (ungated)

2016. “Between Critical and Normative Theory: Predictive Political Theory as a Deweyan Realism” Political Research Quarterly. (ungated)

2015. “Can Deliberation Neutralise Power?” European Journal of Political Theory. (ungated)

2014. “Legitimacy”, with Jack Knight, in Michael T. Gibbons, ed., Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Wiley. (ungated)