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Dr Maria Dimova-Cookson

Associate Professor in Political Theory

BA (Sofia), MA (York), DPhil (York)

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Associate Professor in Political Theory in the School of Government and International AffairsSE101, Southend House+44 (0) 191 33 47182
Centre Director in the Centre for the History of Political Thought  


Maria Dimova-Cookson completed her DPhil in Politics on the political philosophy of the British idealists at the University of York. She has previously studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Sofia University and MA in political philosophy at the University of York. Her academic appointments have been at UCL, as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, UEA, as a visiting fellow and University of Sheffield as a lecturer in political theory. Since 2005 she has worked at SGIA, Durham University.

Dr Dimova-Cookson’s research focuses on moral and political issues in the history of and contemporary political thought including the dual nature of liberty, justifications of human rights, moral development, value pluralism, ethical particularism versus ethical universalism, and multiculturalism. Her forthcoming book Rethinking Positive and Negative Liberty (Routledge 2019) argues that the positive/negative distinction which fell out of fashion in the late twentieth century, remains highly pertinent today. The book builds on the work of Constant, Green and Berlin who led the development of the dual conceptualisation of freedom from the eighteenth century onwards. The book proposes a new reading of the distinction where positive freedom is achieved when one succeeds in doing what is right, while negative freedom is achieved when one is able to advance one’s wellbeing. In an environment of culture wars, resurging populism and challenge to progressive liberal values, the duality of freedom can explain the moral dilemmas we face and point to ways forward.The book analyses the dual conceptualisation in more philosophical depth than previous studies and shows the links between freedom, plurality of values, moral development and political institutions.

Research interests

  • •The concept of liberty; the positive/negative freedom distinction; contemporary theories of liberty
  • •The political philosophy of the British idealists and British political thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
  • •The political philosophy of Benjamin Constant and Isaiah Berlin
  • •Human rights, multiculturalism and global justice
  • •Moral issues in contemporary political theory; moral development; value pluralism; ethical particularism versus ethical universalism; ethics of giving

Research groups

  • Durham Human Rights Centre (Law School)
  • Nations, Nationalisms and Diasporas
  • Political Theory


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