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Dr Dan Taylor

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

  • BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker 2023
  • Academic in British politics and political thought
  • Postgraduate Convenor and Grand Union Doctoral Training Pathway lead for Social Justice and Inequalities
  • Co-Director of the Language, Literature and Politics group
  • Trustee of Gateshead Carers Association
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Researcher at large on projects across England exploring community, infrastructure and place 

My job is to teach how to think about politics. I am honoured to work at the Open University, the UK's largest university and by far its most important one for social mobility through learning. A lot of my work concerns big picture questions like "why are we governed?", "what is power and who should have it", and "how can democracies adapt to the new global challenges of the 21st century"? In my work, I come up with new ways to think about freedom, power and our obligations to each other. I'm interested in the ways that the past matters for understanding today's social challenges. 

I joined The Open University in July 2020. Before that, I taught for four years at Goldsmiths, University of London, Lawrence University, the Mary Ward Centre, and the University of Roehampton. I have a PhD in Philosophy from Roehampton (2017) and an MA in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths. Before I became an academic I worked for six years in disability, mental health and homelessness services in London, where I'm from. I am committed to exploring how ways of seeing and doing might be transformed for the better, building on the struggles of the past. 

Research interests

I'm currently working on three big long-term projects examining

  • Inclusive growth in Barking and Dagenham (webpage)
  • Reimagining the landscape of care in Gateshead (webpage)
  • Community, infrastructure and place in the Fens (Peterborough, Boston and Wisbech) (webpage)

If you are Googling me, chances are it's because we have crossed paths at a community event or because you've heard about my interest in where you live. My current research focuses on the politics of place, connection, growth and care. I explore these contested keywords through long-term research partnerships with community and cultural organisations in different parts of England, alongside extensive fieldwork, interviews and focus groups. 

By training I am a political theorist. I've produced internationally leading research on the Enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza. My most recent book is Spinoza and the Politics of Freedom (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), reviewed here. I organised a three-day conference on Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise in 2021 (watch the talks and find out more on this page). I've published multiple journal articles and chapters on Spinoza's thought and contemporary global challenges, and I am currently editing two books on his thinking.

But my main interest has always been British politics. Yes, you can have your 17th century Enlightenment cake and eat it. My second book, Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for best political writing in 2017. Gently subverting the title of David Cameron's reportedly favourite book, it was a political travelogue and bicycle odyssey - basically, everything does go wrong when you try to cycle across Britain for four months with a rusty bike and leaky tent. But I met some brilliant people on the way, and it's their stories in the book. My first book was Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in the Neoliberal Era (Zero, 2013), which is as angry and as jargon-heavy, juvenile perhaps, as it might sound. But it set out how young people in the UK had been shafted by years of austerity and the slow breakdown of opportunity in housing and secure employment. I wish the book had been wrong in its predictions. But as someone once said, the future is unwritten.

PhD supervision

If you are interested in studying for an MPhil or PhD in politics, political thought or international relations, get in touch with me. I handle postgraduate recruitment in POLIS. If you'd like to work with me as your doctoral supervisor, do also get in touch. I welcome inquiries from students working on contemporary political theory, the history of political thought, or projects related to Spinoza. I supervise one MPhil/PhD student working on the philosophy of history and collective memory.

Teaching interests

I teach across a few politics and social science modules, including:

  • Modern Political Ideas (DD316). I have co-chaired this module since 2022 with Dr Geoff Andrews. More here.
  • Global Challenges: Social Science in Action (D113) - a new course launched in 2023. I authored several weeks and produced a range of hard-hitting films around climate change, the legacies of colonialism and enslavement, and the impact of digital technology.
  • Understanding Politics: Ideas and Institutions in the Modern World (DD211). I've recently produced a series of audios, films and texts on UK environmentalism, freedom, sovereignty, equality and freedom. More here.
  • Media, Politics and Society, a short course in conjunction with the BFI, where I teach about fake news and disinformation. More here.

I write regularly for OpenLearn, the Open University's free learning platform. Click here to read some of my articles on free speech, superstition, environmentalism and more.

In the past I wrote and taught many courses and modules in philosophy, politics and history. Take a look at the Teaching section of my blog to find out more, with links to video lectures and materials.

Impact and engagement

I've made regular appearances on BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking, alongside The Essay, Radio 4's Moral Maze, Open Country and Making History. I've written for The IndependentNew StatesmanThe ConversationThe PhilosopherPhilosophy Now and OpenDemocracy.

I was an academic lead advisor on BBC 2's Union with David Olusoga - we made a beautifully illustrated series of audios, stories and an article about the past and present of the UK.

From northern working men's clubs to the OECD Forum in Paris, and from street corners in south London to international universities in Italy, Belgium and beyond, I've talked and taught my research in many places. Check out my blog for a record.

External collaborations

I've worked closely with Gateshead Carers Association since 2022, first on a powerful knowledge exchange partnership that set out to reimagine support and recognition for unpaid carers. Using interviews and focus groups, we produced a film and report making practical recommendations for change. I've since become a trustee of the charity, supporting the organisation in a challenging environment, as well as developing further work interviewing other care professionals, developing a banner for unpaid carers, and developing a new political agenda around carer poverty and inequalities. I am also a Deputy Lead for the Carer Research Group at the Open University.

I am on the Editorial Board of The Philosopher, the longest-running public philosophy journal in the UK, and one of the most important public philosophy outlets in the English language.

I've peer reviewed for MIT Press, Edinburgh University Press, Bloomsbury, as well as the journals Political Theory, History of Political Thought, History of European Ideas, the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Constellations, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, and the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies.

Internally, I co-direct the Language, Literature and Politics research group with David Johnson and Philip Seargeant, where we've organised three brilliant series (and counting) of public talks on today's contentious issues like "the hostile environment".

I also edit the annual SSGS Magazine, which showcases some of the great work our academics, ALs and students are up to across the School. Check out a recent issue here.

International Editorial Advisory Board of Spinoza Studies, an Ediburgh University Press imprint.

Editorial Board of The Philosopher, a major public philosophy platform.

International Scientific Committee of Sive Natura, University of Bologna.


Militant conversion in a prison of the mind: Malcolm X and Spinoza on domination and freedom (2024-03)
Taylor, Dan
Contemporary Political Theory, 23 (pp. 66-87)

On Method (2022)
Taylor, Dan
The Philosopher, 110(4)

[Book Review] Mogens Lærke,Spinoza and the Freedom of Philosophizing (2021)
Taylor, Dan
Danish Yearbook of Philosophy (pp. 1-2)

[Book review] Politics, Ontology and Knowledge in Spinoza, by Alexandre Matheron, edited by Filippo Del Lucchese, David Maruzzella and Gil Morejón, translated by David Maruzzella and Gil Morejón, Edinburgh University Press (2021)
Taylor, Dan
British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 29(6) (pp. 1201-1204)

On Damaged and Regenerating Life: Spinoza and Mentalities of Climate Catastrophe (2021)
Taylor, Dan
Crisis and Critique, 8(1) (pp. 476-501)

On Chess (2021)
Taylor, Dan
The Philosopher, 109(4) (pp. 84-91)

Death, a surreptitious friendship: mortality and the impossibility of dying in Bataille and Blanchot (2020)
Taylor, Dan
Angelaki, 25(6) (pp. 3-18)

Affects of Resistance: Indignation, Emulation, Fellowship (2019-04-18)
Taylor, Dan
Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, 30 (pp. 23-48)

Review of Michael Löwy's "Franz Kafka, Subversive Dreamer" (2019)
Taylor, Dan
Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 18(2) (pp. 255-256)

The Reasonable Republic? Statecraft, Affects, and the Highest Good in Spinoza's Late Tractatus Politicus (2019)
Taylor, Dan
History of European Ideas, 45(5) (pp. 645-660)

The Working Class Revolts (2017-02-07)
Taylor, Dan
New Statesman

The Party's Over? The Angry Brigade, the Counterculture, and the British New Left, 1967-1972 (2015-09)
Taylor, Dan
The Historical Journal, 58(3) (pp. 877-900)

Anxiety Machines: Continuous Connectivity and the New Hysteria (2012)
Taylor, J. D.
Nyx, a Noctournal, 7

Spinoza and the Politics of Freedom (2021-01)
Taylor, Dan
ISBN : 9781474478397 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain (2016)
Taylor, Dan
ISBN : 9781910924204 | Publisher : Repeater Books | Published : London

Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in the Neoliberal Era (2013)
Taylor, J. D.
ISBN : 978-1-78099-260-0 | Publisher : Zero Books | Published : Winchester

Climate anxiety, fatalism and the capacity to act (2023)
Taylor, Dan
In: Davis, Oliver and Watkin, Christopher eds. New Interdisciplinary Perspectives On and Beyond Autonomy. Warwick Series in the Humanities (pp. 150-164)
ISBN : 9781003331780 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York; Abingdon

Do we still not know what a body can do? Spinoza, Arendt and The Productive Body (2023)
Taylor, Dan
In: Blayney, Steffan; Hornsby, Joey and Whaley, Savannah eds. The Body Productive: Rethinking Capitalism, Work and the Body (pp. 37-58)
ISBN : 9780755639526 | Publisher : Bloomsbury | Published : London

Not that Serious? The Investigation and Trial of the Angry Brigade, 1967-1972 (2017)
Taylor, Dan
In: Smith, Evan and Worley, Matthew eds. Waiting for the Revolution: The British Far Left from 1956 (pp. 30-47)
ISBN : 9781526113658 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester

The Paper Bag Compromise: Hiding the Problem of Drug Dependency in Hamsterdam (2015)
Taylor, J. D.
In: Keeble, Arin and Stacy, Ivan eds. The Wire and America's Dark Corners: Critical Essays (pp. 95-113)
ISBN : 9780786479184 | Publisher : McFarland | Published : Jefferson, NC

'We Hate Humans': Some Problems in Reading the 2011 English Riots Within a Recent History of Working Class Violence (2015)
Taylor, Dan
In: Fuggle, Sophie and Henri, Tom eds. Return to the Street
ISBN : 978-0957147058 | Publisher : Pavement Books | Published : London