The Intrinsic Wrong of Privatisation

Tuesday 14 March 2017, 16:00 - 18:00

Council Room, UCL School of Public Policy, 29-30 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9QU

Speaker: Professor Chiara Cordelli (University of Chicago)
Series: Institute of Law, Politics and Philosophy

Note that the total time will be devoted to discussion of the paper. To receive the paper and to be added to the email list for the UCL Institute of Law, Politics & Philosophy please email

About the paper:

What is wrong (if anything) with privatisation? Professor Cordelli argues that both instrumental and non-instrumental arguments (i.e. the motivational, commodification and intrinsically-public goods arguments) proposed by political philosophers against privatisation fail to explain what is ultimately objectionable with this phenomenon. The (intrinsic) wrong of privatisation, Professor Cordelli then suggests, consists in the creation of an institutional arrangement that denies those who are subject to it equal freedom.

By building on an interpretation of Kant’s theory of the state, Professor Cordelli argues that current forms of privatisation reproduce within a civil condition the very same defects that Kant attributes to the state of nature, thereby making a rightful condition of reciprocal independence impossible. This is so even if private actors are publicly authorised through contract and subject to regulations, and even if they are committed to reason in accordance with the public good. Hence, for the very same reasons that we have a duty to exit the state of nature, we also have a duty to both limit privatisation and to support a case for state bureaucracy.

About the speaker:

Chiara Cordelli is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Her main area of research is contemporary analytical political theory. Her research interests include the relationship between the distributive and relational dimensions of equality; the moral and institutional division of labor between state and civil society in theories of justice; the public/private distinction in liberal theory; the nature of duties of beneficence and the ethics of philanthropy; and the ethical limits of privatisation.

About the Institute:

The Institute brings together political and legal theorists from Law, Political Science and Philosophy and organises regular colloquia in terms 2 and 3.