Political Theory Project

About the Political Theory Project

A Tradition of Pluralism

Brown University has a long and distinguished tradition of pluralism. While other Ivy League schools were founded on religious charters, Brown was different from the start. Brown’s Charter of 1764 states: 


Students on the main green
Students on the main green

“ It is hereby enacted and declared that into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests: But, on the contrary, all the members hereof shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute and uninterrupted liberty of conscience. ”


In 1969, the students who devised the New Curriculum had a similar idea: Instead of one mandated curriculum imposed upon all, they insisted that, at Brown, each student should be free to experiment and devise a unique path of study for themselves. 

The PTP is proud to carry on this tradition at Brown today, as evidenced in our programs: The Janus Forum Lecture Series, The Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Society, The Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, and in the content of our Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Research Seminar. 

Deirdre McCloskey (UIC)
Deirdre MDeirdre McCloskey (UIC), Odyssey guest lecturer, "Bourgeois Virtues: How the West Got Rich"

Market Democracy

The PTP pursues its mission within the broad research paradigm of what we call “market democracy.” Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey refers to the enlightenment period as “The Great Enrichment,” as the rise of democratic ideas and institutions coincided with a dramatic increase in personal freedom and economic prosperity. The question of how market economies interact with democratic ideals is at the heart of the PTP’s research mission.


The Five Components of Market Democracy

The five main components of the market democratic paradigm are tightly integrated, and include:

  1. A Participatory Ideal of Inclusion: Market democracies are fundamentally committed to a participatory ideal of inclusion.  According to this ideal, the voice and well being of each person matters, and matters equally. The PTP has a special interest in institutions and norms that have a proven record of creating a more participatory and inclusive society.
  2. Democratic Governance: As the name “market democracy” implies, market democracies are committed to both democratic governance and market economies. By democratic governance, we mean a community of free individuals who jointly determine the rules and institutions that are to guide them. 
  3. Market Economies: By market economies, we mean that the economic sectors of production are grounded upon private property rights and contractual freedom. Working together, these institutions create social conditions in which citizens can trade, create social wealth, and pursue their own conception(s) of the good life in a stable and inclusive environment.
  4. The Rule of Law: Market democracies are committed to the rule of law. This includes the idea that individuals must be accorded equal treatment as free individuals. Market democracies, in their various ways, see individuals as holding strong claims of personal liberty, or as philosopher John Rawls has termed them “spheres of inviolability”. Among these liberties are freedom of the person, freedom of association, economic liberty, and freedom of inquiry and expression.
  5. Freedom of Expression: This last right, freedom of expression, plays a special role within the research approach of the PTP, as it has within real market democratic regimes throughout history. At the PTP, we aim to foster a culture of critical engagement and scientific contestation. Like technologies, ideas improve through contact with new and competitive ideas. We bring together dynamic, self-directing scholars to study aspects of market democracy through a variety of disciplinary, methodological, and ideological lenses.

    Our Primary Research Questions

    • What are the moral and practical limitations of democracies and markets?
    • How do market economies and democratic governments interact and shape social outcomes?
    • How significantly are contemporary distributions of wealth shaped by historical injustice?
    • What are the conditions for human flourishing?
    • How might we best address multidimensional social problems such as mass incarceration in America, economic inequality, or the challenges posed to the workforce by creative destruction?

    Contact Us

    We'd love to hear from you!

    Political Theory Project
    Brown University
    Box 2005
    25 George Street
    Providence, RI 02912

    Phone: (401) 863-1038
    Fax: (401) 863-6492
    [email protected]
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