The Privatized State—Lecture (30/11)

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies is hosting Chiara Cordelli for a talk entitled “The Privatized State.” Prof. Cordelli will be discussing a chapter of her recent book with the same title.

NOVEMBER 30, 1700 (CET)

Chiara Cordelli (University of Chicago)

The Privatized State

Hybrid: Remote/American University of Paris


Many governmental functions today—from the management of prisons and welfare offices to warfare and financial regulation—are outsourced to private entities. Education and health care are funded in part through private philanthropy rather than taxation. Can a privatized government rule legitimately? The Privatized State argues that it cannot.

In this boldly provocative book, Chiara Cordelli argues that privatization constitutes a regression to a precivil condition—what philosophers centuries ago called “a state of nature.” Developing a compelling case for the democratic state and its administrative apparatus, she shows how privatization reproduces the very same defects that Enlightenment thinkers attributed to the precivil condition, and which only properly constituted political institutions can overcome—defects such as provisional justice, undue dependence, and unfreedom. Cordelli advocates for constitutional limits on privatization and a more democratic system of public administration, and lays out the central responsibilities of private actors in contexts where governance is already extensively privatized. Charting a way forward, she presents a new conceptual account of political representation and novel philosophical theories of democratic authority and legitimate lawmaking.

The Privatized State shows how privatization undermines the very reason political institutions exist in the first place, and advocates for a new way of administering public affairs that is more democratic and just.

Speaker Bio: Chiara Cordelli is associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She works on a variety of topics in social and political philosophy, including questions of distributive justice, political legitimacy, normative defenses of the state, and the ethics of philanthropy. She is the author of The Privatized State (Princeton University Press, 2020), which was awarded the 2021 ECPR Political Theory Prize for best first book in political theory, and the co-editor of Philanthropy in Democratic Societies (University of Chicago Press, 2016). Cordelli held visiting positions at Stanford (2011-13), Princeton (2014-15) and Harvard (2018-19).


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