Paul Kelly (professor)

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Paul Kelly (2013)

Paul Kelly (born 1962) is Professor of Political Philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and Head of the Department of Government.[1]


Kelly’s early work and main contribution as a historian of political theory was as part of a group of revisionist Bentham scholars, having worked on the manuscripts at the Bentham Project at University College London. Kelly rejected the common claim that Bentham was a crude act-utilitarian. Instead, he argued that Bentham developed a complex two-level utilitarian theory similar to those of contemporary indirect utilitarian theorists such as R. M. Hare or John Gray. His further claim that this makes Bentham a central figure in the canon of liberal political philosophers contradicts most standard interpretations, and is still a widely contested interpretation.[2][3][4]

Having based his early work on both archival work and philosophical reconstruction, Kelly has gone on to engage in debates about the methodology and importance of history in the study of political thought. His work on the book Political Thinkers, edited with David Boucher, has defended a non-contextualist approach to past political thinkers in contrast to the linguistic contextualism defended by Quentin Skinner amongst others.

His scepticism about reducing political theory to history has also led to a similar scepticism about the claims made for identity in normative political theory. His criticism of multicultural theories and communitarianism, has led to a defence of liberal egalitarianism that draws on the work of British political theorists such as Brian Barry (1936–2009) and H. L. A. Hart (1907–1992), as much as that of John Rawls. Kelly’s work on liberal egalitarianism has concentrated on its claims as a political theory and his most recent work is on the defence of liberal moralism against the arguments of ‘realist’ political theorists such as Bernard Williams.

Recent publications[edit]


  1. ^ "LSE Government Department - Website". Retrieved 2009-11-16. [dead link]
  2. ^ See David Lyons ‘Bentham, Utilitarianism and Distribution’, Utilitas, vol. 4, no. 2, (1992), pp. 323-8
  3. ^ See discussion in Brian Barry, Justice as Impartiality Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, pp. 136-7
  4. ^ James E. Crimmins, ‘Contending Interpretations of Bentham’s Utilitarianism’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 29, no. 4, (1996), pp. 751-777

External links[edit]