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Prof Lawrence Hamilton

Prof Lawrence  Hamilton

NRF/British Academy Research Chair in Political Theory

Director of Research


Lawrence is the NRF/British Academy Research Chair in Political Theory, Department of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand and the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge. At both he teaches and researches on various topics in political theory and South African politics. He has held research fellowships and visiting professorships in Salvador, Caracas, Cape Town and Cambridge. He is a Life Member of Clare Hall and an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). He is editor-in-chief of Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, and the recipient of more than ten awards for research excellence. He has published five books including, most recently, Freedom is Power: Liberty Through Political Representation (Cambridge University Press 2014) and Are South Africans Free? (Bloomsbury 2014). He is currently working on a commissioned book, Amartya Sen (Polity 2018) and a manuscript entitled Human Needs, Human Rights and Political Judgement.

Research Interests

His research interests include various topics in contemporary political theory, such as states, power, representation, freedom, needs, rights, resistance, democracy, markets and political judgement, as informed by the perspective of the global South and the history of political thought; South African political economy and intellectual history.

Key Publications


Freedom is Power: Liberty Through Political Representation (Cambridge University Press 2014)

Are South Africans Free? (Bloomsbury 2014)

Intellectual Traditions in South Africa: Ideas, Individuals and Institutions, ed. P. Vale, L. Hamilton and E. Prinsloo

(University of KwaZulu-Natal Press 2014)

Puzzles in contemporary political philosophy: An introduction to South African students, with Louise Vincent and

Joleen Steyn-Kotze (Van Schaik Publishers 2012)

The Political Philosophy of Needs (Cambridge University Press 2003)


‘Justice and Real Politics: Freedom, Needs and Representation’, in Distributive Justice Debates in Political and Social Thought: Perspectives on Finding A Fair Share, ed. C. Boisen and M. C. Murray (Routledge 2016)

‘Democratic Theory: The South African Crucible’, Democratic Theory (Non-Western Theories of Democracy), 2.2 (2015)

‘Power, Domination and Human Needs’, Thesis Eleven Vol. 119, No. 1 (2013)

‘The Promise of Political Theory in South Africa’, Politikon, 40.2 (2013)

‘Collective Unfreedom in South Africa’, Contemporary Politics, 17.4 (2011)

‘Debt, Democracy and Representation in South Africa’, with Nicola Viegi, Representation 45.2 (2009)

‘“(I’ve Never Met) a Nice South African”: virtuous citizenship and popular sovereignty’, Theoria 119 (2009)

‘Human Needs and Political Judgment’, in New Waves in Political Philosophy eds Zurn & de Bruin (Palgrave 2009)

‘Needs and Agency’, in Handbook of Economics and Ethics, eds Peil and Staveren (Edward Elgar Publishing 2008)

 ‘The Context and Argument of The Political Philosophy of Needs’ (Symposium on The Political Philosophy of Needs), The South African Journal of Philosophy 25. 3 (2006)

‘Needs, Rights and Political Judgment: Response to Critics’, The South African Journal of Philosophy 25. 3 (2006)

‘Human Needs, Land Reform and the South African Constitution’, Politikon, 33. 2 (2006)

‘“Civil Society”: Critique and Alternative’, in Global Civil Society and Its Limits, ed S. Halperin (Palgrave 2003)

‘A Theory of True Interests in the Work of Amartya Sen’, Government and Opposition 34. 4 (1999)