Jack Newman

Jack Newman


My research combines abstract social and political theory with an interest in post-war British politics and a particular focus on the modern Conservative Party. With regards to social theory, I work within a critical realist morphogenetic approach, but show an interest in broader debates about ontology and epistemology. With regards to political theory, I am particularly interested in the overlap with social theory and the concept of 'feasability', but also have a wider interest in political ideology and political philosophy. My knowledge and research of British politics seeks to develop innovative ways to utilise these abstract theories in political analysis. My thesis, as an embodiment of this approach, proposes the analysis of ontological assumptions in public policy (further details below). 

I studied for my undergraduate degree in Politics at the University of Liverpool, focusing on British politics and political theory, and graduated in 2010. I then completed an MA in Politics ('political theory pathway') part-time at the University of Leeds, with a dissertation on ontological assumptions in UK welfare policy; I graduated with a distinction in 2014. Since 2015, I have been studying for a PhD at the University of Leeds and have been teaching part-time.

Current teaching (2018/19)

  • PIED1100 British Politics
  • PIED1601 Freedom, Power and Resistance
  • PIED2601 Revolution and Reaction
  • PIED3608 Philosophy of Human Rights
  • SLSP2675 Sociology of Work

Previous teaching

  • PIED2160 Spin Drs and Electioneering
  • Leeds International Study Centre: lecturer and module lead on British Politics

Professional associations

  • Political Studies Association
  • PSA Conservatism Specialist Group
  • Higher Education Academy - Associate Fellow

Research interests

Thesis abstract

"It should be appreciated that all philosophies, cognitive discourses and practical activities presuppose a realism - in the sense of some ontology or general account of the world - of one kind or another" (Bhaskar 1989: 2)

Do we have free will? Are we the product of our social context? Are institutions causally significant? Does 'culture' affect our thoughts and actions? Assumptions about the nature of existence are not the reserve of academics and philosophers who create and critique rival visions of reality. Instead, assumptions about the nature of existence (i.e. 'ontological assumptions') are made by all people in a hugely diverse range of ordinary and remarkable social activities. These assumptions are particularly pertinent in the recent reforms to the UK welfare system. On this basis, my thesis makes a two-part central argument.

The first part is a theoretical argument, based primarily on the work of Margaret Archer, that ideas have a causal influence on social structures and on individual agents. As ideas, ontological assumptions about the nature of being and existence, have causal power in the formation of government policies, influencing outcomes through institutional structures and individual decision making.

The second part of the central argument is that certain ontological assumptions underpin Coalition welfare reform, exhibiting logical contradictions that undermine the justification of their formation and have the potential to undermine the effectiveness of their implementation. My research identifies a number of the ontological assumptions underpinning UK welfare reform through a literature analysis and a document analysis, exploring the arising contradictions in relation to political ideologies. 

The primary implication of my research is that we need to pay attention to the ontological assumptions of our politicians and of the policy they produce.