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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Director of Research


Lawrence is the NRF/British Academy Research Professor in Political Theory, Witwatersrand and Cambridge, where he teaches and researches on various topics in political theory and South African politics. He has held visiting positions in Salvador, Caracas, Cape Town and Cambridge, is an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and is editor-in-chief of Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory. He is the author or editor of six books and is currently working on a manuscript entitled Human Rights and Political Judgement. He directs APTA and the Witwatersrand-Cambridge Exchange Programme.



His research interests include various topics in political theory, South African political economy and the history of political and economic thought. He contributes to rethinking political theory from the perspective of the global South around five main themes: needs, interests and rights; freedom, resistance and democracy; states, markets and political judgement; the ethics and economics of Amartya Sen; and decolonizing republics.


Key publications: 

Amartya Sen (Cambridge: Polity Press 2019) 

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

Are South Africans Free? (Bloomsbury 2014)

The Political Philosophy of Needs (Cambridge University Press 2003)



  • 'Resistance and radical democracy: freedom, power and institutions', History of European Ideas, 44.4 (2018), pp. 477-491 DOI:10.1080/01916599.2018.1473961


  • 'Freedom in the Decolonizing Republic', The Good Society, 26.1 (2018), pp. 120-134, DOI: 10.5325/goodsociety.26.1.0120


  • 'Freedom is Power: Reinventing Representative Democracy', The Good Society, 26.1 (2018), pp. 4-18, DOI: 10.5325/goodsociety.26.1.0004



  • ‘Representation Needs Resistance’, Representation 53.1 (2017), pp. 81-95


  • ‘Representing Needs: A New Language for Politics and Economics’, in Beyond Neoliberalism, Nationalism and Socialism: rethinking the boundary between state and market, ed. T. Aubrey (Rowman & Littlefield 2017), pp. 59-70.


  •  ‘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, 119.1 (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)


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


  • ‘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)



For a full list of publications (including on-line papers) click here


Teaching and Supervisions


Lawrence is happy to be approached by prospective masters and doctoral students

NRF/British Academy Research Chair of Political Theory
Professor Lawrence   Hamilton

Contact Details

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