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Robert Barlow

Rob Barlow Headshot

Robert Barlow

Ph.D. Candidate


Rob is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Stanford, specializing in political theory. He is interested in understanding how citizens should conduct the practice of politics from a moral perspective, including how their duties towards one another should shape their political choices and how circumstances should affect the range of means they are permitted to take in order to bring about change.
In his dissertation, he poses a simple moral question that all political reformers face, and to which contemporary work in political theory offers few answers: what is to be done? This question cannot be answered if we do not understand what should count as just or legitimate political outcomes. However, contemporary work in political theory is disproportionately focused on identifying idealized principles of justice for society, while having little or nothing to say about how such theories should affect the practice of political reform.
To begin solving this problem, he develops a theory that explains how prospective reformers should evaluate their choice of political action from a moral perspective. In separate chapters, he considers how and to what extent pursuit of highly aspirational political ideals should figure in reformers' choice of political actions, what exactly it means to pursue justice through one's political actions, how we should evaluate the sufficiency of citizens' efforts to bring about political change, and how circumstances affect the duties we hold towards ourselves and others, including duties not to engage in coercion, intimidation, and violence.