Professor Keith Dowding

BA(Hons) (Keele); DPhil (Oxon)
Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Political Philosophy
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Political Theory And Political Philosophy 160609
  • Political Science 1606
  • Comparative Government And Politics 160603
  • Public Policy 160510
  • Public Administration 160509

Research interests

I am interested in supervising students in the areas of

  • Political Theory and Political Philosophy - analytic political theory, synthetic political theory, especially freedom, equality, power, democratic theory, theories of justice, rational choice theory, philosophy of social science.
  • Public administration - especially politician-agency relations, public sector reform, Australian Politics - especially cabinet, career paths of politicians.
  • Comparative Politics - all areas especially electoral systems, comparative legislatures, comparative executives, comparative party systems; collective action.
  • British politics; all areas.
  • Australian Politics - political elites: ministers, parliamentarians, public service; policy agendas.
  • Political Sociology - collective action/mass mobilization; agency-structure; choice.


Keith Dowding is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Political Philosophy. He arrived at the ANU  in July 2007 from the LSE where he was Professor of Political Science He has also held appointments at Brunel University in West London and at the University of Oxford.

He has been a Hallsworth Fellow at Manchester University in 1993-94; Visiting Fellow at RSSS, ANU in 2000-01; British Academy Research Fellow 2005-07, Visiting Fellow Nuffield College, Oxford 2005-07; Visiting Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) October-December 2007; Viisting PPE Fellow at the Free University of Amsterdam May-June 2019; Visiting Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Munich 2019-2020; and a Visiting Fellow (remotely) at the Centre for Advanced Studies, Oslo, 2021, and in person May-June 2022.

He currently holds (with others) an ARC Discovery Grant Pathways to Power: Australian Political Careers

He formed (with others) a network of scholars Selection and De-selection of Political Elites (SEDEPE) who are interested in the career paths of political elites.

He formed (with others) the ECPR Standing Group on Methods in Normative Political Theory

He was vice-Chair at the Citizens' Income Trust in the UK an organization educating people about a Citizen's or Basic Income for all to replace all other kinds of social welfare assistance. He edited the Journal of Theoretical Politics from 1996 to 2014 and was Associate editor of Research and Politics 2014-18.

He owns and curates the second largest cornflake collection in the world.


Researcher's projects

All of my research is informed by the rational choice approach which I have found myself defending against misinformed criticism for many years. The funny thing is, I always thought I was a critic of classical rational choice.

Having a very short attention span I work on many different projects at the same time. I am unusual in that I work in both empirical political science and political philosophy.

Work in Empirical Political Science

My main research projects are:

The Careers of Political Elites

There are many strands to my study of elite careers.

Pathways to Power: Australian Political Careers

ARC Discovery Grant DP21010101021  (Funding July 2021-June 2024)

This project maps the career structure of political elites and examines the de-sparation thesis suggesting that the convergence of elite careers produces worse policy outcomes.  Held with ANU colleagues Marija Taflaga, Matthew Kerby and Darren Halpin

The project aims to uncover the determinants of successful careers of elected and non-elected political elites. The project expects to generate new knowledge about elite career paths (politicians, political staff, media, interest group personnel and bureaucrats), examine the impact of political elites on the quality of government, and whether this has changed over time. The project should provide significant benefits to academics via theoretical development of processes driving careers progression and establishing Australia as a benchmark case facilitatingfuture international collaboration. It will enhance the capacity of citizens and policy makers to assess the overalleffectiveness of governance and the regulation of political life.


Institutional Rules and their Effects on Cabinet and Ministerial Durability in Advanced Democracies (With Elena Semonova and Andre Kaiser, University of Cologne)

DFG (German Science Foundation) Project Number 469033183 (Funding 2023-2036)

This project examines how specific rules affect the durability and career paths of politicians in advance democracies.  It involves the collection of a vast dataset on politiicians, and on the specific rules that govern executive power, legislative and parliamentary rules. An early paper associated with that project appears in European Political Science Review in 2021.

Australian Parliamentary Speech: How Deliberative? How Representative? (With Marija Taflaga, Kenneth Benoit, Patrick Leslie and Rohan Alexander)

ARC Discovery Grant DP230100864 (Funded 2024-2026)

This project aims to assess the Australian Parliament’s representativeness and quality of debate from 1901-2020. It expects to generate new tools and knowledge about the development and workings of parliament using innovative quantitative text analysis methods. Expected outcomes include analysis of the relationship between representation (class, gender etc) and policy outcomes, an information-based measure of parliamentary speech and a standardised dataset of Hansard. This should provide significant benefits to the scholarly community by removing cost and time barriers and build capacity for international collaborations. The objective information generated can contribute to public discussion about the efficacy of parliamentary debate.

The Accountability of Australian Cabinet Ministers 

ARC Discovery Grant DP0985196  (Funded 2009-2011)

This created a data set on Australian ministers, their longevity and factors that lead to their durability.  Numerous papers emerged from this project and also a book Keith Dowding and Chris Lewis (eds) Ministerial Careers and Accountability in the Australian Commonwealth Government  Canberra: ANU Press, 2012


Previously I had similar work on UK ministers published in various journals and in a book with Samuel Berlinski and Torun Dewan Accounting for Ministers Cambridge University Press 2012.



With Patrick Dumont I set up the academic network Selection and De-Selection of Political Elites (SEDEPE) which encourages data collection on political elites for comparative analysis.  We edit a book series Routledge Research on Political Elites which has over twenty books including Keith Dowding and Patrick Duomnt The Selection of Ministers in Europe (2009) and Keith Dowdng and Patrick Dumont (eds) The Selection of Ministers Around the World (2015).

Policy Agendas in Australia

ARC Discovery Project DP110102622 2011-13 (with Aaron Martin, Melbourne University)

Part of the International Comparative Policy Agendas initiative this project maps the process of policy formation within Austraiia over time.  With over a dozen publications in journals and edited books and Keith Dowding and Aaron Martin Policy Agendas in Australia (Palgrave) 2017.

Public Policy

I have long been engaged with examining urban service-delivery (mostly with Peter John) our book  Exits, Voices and Social Investment: Citizens' Responses to Public Services Cambridge: Cambridge University Press was published in 2012.

I am combining with work on public policy with political theory notably freedom and responsibility.  My book Its the Government, Stupid (Bristol University Press 2020) argues that government tries to pin responsibility onto citizens for policy failures that are the government's own responsibility via the cult of individual responsibility.  I am working with a colleague Alex Oprea examining 'nudge' and other forms of regulation in relationship to freedom, manipulation and responsibility.


Work in Theory and Political Philosophy


My book The Philosophy and Methods of Political Science, London: Palgrave, came out in 2016. There were symposiums on the book in Political Studies Review and Australian Journal of Political Science in 2017.  I have published articles with Charles Miller and Enzo Lenine extending some of this work and have chapters in several Methodology Handbooks. 

I am now extending this work looking at methods in moral and political philosophy, some of this joint work William Bosworth at the LSE with articles in European Journal of Political Theory and Review of Politics. I have run panels on this methods in political philosophy at ECPR General Conference since 2016 and helped set up the ECPR Specialist group of Methods of Normative Political Theory.

Power and Freedom

I have long had an interest in the concept of power and freedom and their relationship.  I have published two books on power (Rational Choice and Political Power, Elgar 1991, and Power, Minnesota University Press, 1996) as well as many articles on both power and freedom. Rational Choice and Political Power with two new chapters was ire-issued by Bristol University Press in 2019.  A symposium on this book appeared in the Journal of Political Power in 2021. I edited The Encyclopedia of Power Sage in 2011. My book Power, Luck and Freedom: Collected Essays, Manchester: Manchester University Press was published in early 2017. I am working on a project with Martin van Hees (University of Amsterdam) entitled 'Assessing Freedom'.

Other Recent Research 

Keith Dowding and Brad Tayler Economic Approaches to Government Palgrave Pivot, 2019.

Keith Dowding Its the Government Stupid: How Governments Blame Citizens for their Own Policies, Bristol University Press


Current student projects


Arthur Yang 'Contract Theory and the Justification of Government' (commenced July 2023)

Roxanne Missingham 'Government Information Services and the Role of the Parliamentary Library' (commenced July 2023)

Matthew Emond 'Interpration and the Australian Constitution' (commenced July 2022)

Adriano Giuliani 'Sortition versus Party Government' (commenced Jan 2022) Joint Phd with LUMSA

Jarryd Louw 'The Role of Political Power within Analytical Marxism' (commenced February 2022)

Panel Member

Cory McCabe 'Participatory Democracy' (Chair Philip Pettit)

Past student projects

Serrin Rutledge-Prior 'Expanding the Circle of Political Inclusion: Animal Rights in Australia', ANU, graduated 2022

Edmund Handby 'Evaluating Models of Conceptual Change', ANU, graduated 2022

Yarden Niv  'Moral Experts in Decision-Making: Conceptual and Normative Examinations', (external, served on Advisory Committee and Examination Committee, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), graduated 2021 

Lars Moen 'The Republican Dilemma: Liberating Republicanism, Sacrificing Pluralism', ANU, graduated 2020

Kelvin Lee 'Trust and Environmental Valuation: The Impact of Culture as a System', ANU, graduated 2019

Enzo Lenine 'Mathematical Models in Political Science', (external, served on Advisory Committee and Examination Committee, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil), graduated 2018 

Ram Prasad Ghamere  ‘Examining the Adoption of Governance Reforms in Nepal: Success or Failure in the Post-Liberalisation Era (1990-2015)?’, (Chair John Wanna) ANU , graduated 2018

David Monk ‘The Dominant Discourse of Central Bank Independence’, ANU, graduated 2017

Adam Packer ‘The Difference Constitutions Make: A Global Inquiry into the Impacts of Institutional Design' ANU, graduated 2014

William Bosworth ‘Concepts and Consistency in Political Argument’ ANU graduated 2014

Brad Taylor ‘Exit and Voice: Papers from a Revisionist Public Choice Perspective’ ANU graduated 2014

Andrew Klassen ‘Electoral Management Autonomy and Fair Elections: The Effects of Institutional Design on Public Perceptions’ ANU, graduated 2014

Mhairi Cowden ‘Should Children Have Rights?’ ANU, graduated 2012

Michael Dalvean ‘The Selection of Ministers in the Australian Federal Parliament’, ANU, graduated 2012

Matthew Laing ‘New Perspectives on Political Time: Populists, Prime Ministers and Perpetual Preemption’ (Chair Paul ‘t Hart), ANU, graduated 2012

Joanne Lau ‘Culture and Obeying the Law’ (Chair Bob Goodin), ANU, graduated 2012

Aaron Martin ‘Why Don’t Young People Vote? A Study of Advanced Democracies’ (Chair Ian McAllister) ANU, graduated 2010

Andre Alves ‘The Employment Effects of Welfare Regimes’ [with Valentino Larcinese] LSE, graduated 2009

Zsuzsunna Chappell ‘Deliberative Democracy and the Discursive Dilemma’ [with Christian List], LSE, graduated 2009

Rekha Diwakar ‘Determinants of the Size of Party in the Indian States’, LSE, graduated 2006

Daniel Rubenson ‘Is It Really about Bowling: How Institutions and Community Affect Participation in American Cities, LSE, graduated 2006

Stewart Astill ‘Networks that Form Policy: The Case of Pension Reform’, LSE, graduated 2006

Rotem Bressler-Gonen ‘Shirking and Shifting Policies: Uncooperative Political Appointees in Local Governments – the Case of Israel’, LSE, graduated 2005

Oliver Curry ‘New Evolutionary Ethics: An Adaptationist Account of Morality’, LSE, graduated 2005

Kennedy Stewart ‘“Persistent Losing” and Electoral Fairness in Four World Cities’, LSE, graduated 2003

Tom Quinn ‘Organizational Reform in the British Labour Party Since 1983’, LSE, graduated 2002

Oliver James ‘The “Next Steps” Agency Model in the UK Central Government 1988-98, with Special Reference to the Benefits Agency’ [with Patrick Dunleavy], LSE, graduated 2001

Yoav Schechter ‘Interests, Strategies and Institutions: Lobbying in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the European Union’, LSE, graduated 1999

Maijia Setala ‘Theories of Referendums and the Analysis of Agenda-Setting’ [with Brian Barry], LSE, graduated 1997

Andrew Hindmoor ‘Socialism and Entrepreneurship: A Rational Choice Approach to an Issue of Compatibility’, LSE, graduated 1996

Shlomo Mizrahi ‘A Theory of Constitutional Change: Game-theoretical Analysis of Socio-Political Processes in Poland, 1976-1981’ [with Brian Barry], LSE, graduated 1995


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  21 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers