Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:September 2020–August 2021
Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:»Democracy and the Challenge of Oligarchy«
My research project focuses on democratic theory and the normative dimensions of political economy in both a contemporary and historical frame. Specifically, I focus on the complex mechanisms of elite influence concentrated at the very top of the economic pyramid, among a diverse group of people I refer to as ›oligarchs.‹ Oligarchs are agents who maintain personal access to massive concentrated wealth, and who deploy that wealth for discretionary influence in the public domain. This category thus encompasses a range of actors. Some billionaires use their wealth to secure elective office, for example, while others deploy their wealth in more informal ways, as political activists, media moguls, and mega-philanthropists.
My current book manuscript, Oligarchs Among Us, provides a historically informed theorization of oligarchic power in contemporary democracies. I develop a set of strategies for conceptualizing oligarchic power, while recognizing that oligarchy and democracy have a complex and intertwined relationship that can be traced through the perspectives of canonical theorists from ancient Greece to the present. Relatedly, I continue to perform research on issues like tax policy, tax sheltering, and the proper role of private philanthropy in a liberal democratic society. I’m interested in the mechanisms through which private wealth can contribute to healthy liberal democracy (i.e. by supporting pluralism and freedom) while also arguing that the political consequences of private wealth must be subjected to proper democratic scrutiny. (Gordon Arlen)
Research partner:Gordon Arlen follows the invitation of Professor Rainer Forst and the Justitia Centre for Advanced Studies funded by the Alfons and Gertrud Kassel Foundation.
Scholarly profile of Gordon Arlen Gordon Arlen received his doctorate in 2017 from the University of Chicago with a thesis on »Oligarchs Among Us: Confronting Wealth and Power in a Democratic Age«. From 2018 to 2020, he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam.
Please find more information about Gordon Arlen here.
Main areas of research:History of political thought, contemporary democratic theory, American political thought, global justice, normative perspectives on political economy
- (with Enzo Rossi), »Must Realists Be Pessimists About Democracy? Responding to Epistemic and Oligarchic Challenges«, in: Moral Philosophy and Politics (forthcoming).
- »Aristotle and the Problem of Oligarchic Harm: Insights for Democracy«, in: European Journal of Political Theory 18:3, 2019, p. 393-414.
- (with Enzo Rossi), »Is This What Democracy Looks Like (Never Mind Epistocracy)«, in: Inquiry, 01. August 2018,
- »Cold War Prophecy and the Burdens of Comparative Thought: A Case for Revisiting Louis Hartz«, in: Polity 49:4, 2017, p. 548-574.