Ian O’Flynn is Professor of Political Theory in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, UK. His main research interest is in the theory of deliberative democracy – a theory that stresses the importance of public reasoning about important matters of law and public policy. He is perhaps best known for his application of deliberative theory to questions of power sharing and public engagement in deeply divided societies. His books include Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), Deliberative Democracy (Polity, 2021) and (with Ron Levy and Hoi Kong) Deliberative Peace Referendums (Oxford University Press, 2021). Professor O’Flynn has also published on such topics as the public interest, shared intentions and compromise.
Professor O’Flynn has held visiting fellowships at some of the world’s best universities, including the Australian National University, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. He has received research funding from (among others) Atlantic Philanthropies, the British Academy and the ESRC. He is the current President of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy and is a former editor of the ECPR Press. Although his work is primarily theoretical, he has conducted projects on behalf of public sector organisations such as the NHS and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. These projects have been featured by (among others) the BBC, the Financial Times and the New York Times.
Professor O’Flynn has a strong track record of interdisciplinary research. He is currently working with a group of political scientists and political sociologists from the universities of Geneva and Milan on a Swiss National Science Foundation-funded project that seeks to combine deliberative theory and network analysis in order to map and evaluate the integration of Muslim actors in Britain, France and Switzerland. He is also currently working with a group of political scientists and political sociologists from the universities of Canberra, New South Wales, the Victorian University of Wellington, and Yale University on an Australia Research Council-funded project on the topic of democratic resilience in the public sphere.
At the IAS, Professor O’Flynn will be contributing to an important new project on ‘Understanding Offence: Delimiting the (Un)sayable’. This project will interrogate offence from multiple disciplinary perspectives both to deepen our comprehension of the concept and to clarify the range of justifiable reactions to it. Perhaps surprisingly, the concept of offence has yet to be explored from a deliberative perspective. This is all the more surprising since the giving and taking of offence is likely to be a major impediment to public reasoning. While Professor O’Flynn is principally interested in the normative or evaluative dimensions of this topic, his application for an IAS fellowship was underpinned by the view that offence needs to be understood and treated from multiple disciplinary perspectives.
Professor O’Flynn holds a BMus, BA (English and Philosophy) and MA (Philosophy) from University College Cork, and a PhD (Political Theory) from The Queen’s University of Belfast. He is a former ESRC Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Essex.
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