Professor Chandran Kukathas

Photo of Chandran Kukathas

Chair in Political Theory

Office: CON5.04, Connaught House
Office Hours: Mondays 12:00-1:00pm and 2:00-3:00pm (By appointment)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 7910


Chandran Kukathas completed his BA in History and Political Science at the Australian National University and his MA in Politics at the University of New South Wales before going on to a DPhil in Politics at Oxford University. He has taught at the Royal Military College, Canberra; Oxford; the Australian National University; the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy; and the University of Utah, where he held the Neal Maxwell Chair in Political Theory in the Department of Political Science.

Research Interests

  • History of Liberal Thought
  • Contemporary Liberal Theory
  • Multiculturalism

Teaching Responsibilities

  • GV100: Introduction to Political Theory
  • GV476: Twentieth Century European Liberal Thought
  • GV4F5: Advanced Study of Key Political Thinkers

Featured Book

The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom

Oxford University Press, 2003

The Liberal ArchipelagoIn his major work Chandran Kukathas offers, for the first time, a book-length treatment of this controversial and influential theory of minority rights. The work is a defence of a form of liberalism and multiculturalism.

The general question it tries to answer is: what is the principled basis of a free society marked by cultural diversity and group loyalties? More particularly, it explains:

  • Whether such a society requires political institutions which recognize minorities
  • How far it should tolerate such minorities when their ways differ from those of the mainstream community
  • To what extent political institutions should address injustices suffered by minorities at the hands of the wider society, and also at the hands of the powerful within their own communities
  • What role, if any, the state should play in the shaping of a society's (national) identity
  • What fundamental values should guide our reflections on these matters.

Its main contention is that a free society is an open society whose fundamental principle is the principle of freedom of association. A society is free to the extent that it is prepared to tolerate in its midst associations which differ or dissent from its standards or practices. An implication of these principles is that political society is also no more than one among other associations; its basis is the willingness of its members to continue to associate under the terms which define it. While it is an 'association of associations', it is not the only such association; it does not subsume all other associations.

The principles of a free society describe not a hierarchy of superior and subordinate authorities but an archipelago of competing and overlapping jurisdictions. The idea of a liberal archipelago is defended as one which supplies us with a better metaphor of the free society than do older notions such as the body politic, or the ship of state. This work presents a challenge, and an alternative, to other contemporary liberal theories of multiculturalism.


Debate on Bernard Yack's book nationalism and the moral psychology of community
Hearn, Jonathan, Kukathas, Chandran, Miller, David and Yack, Bernard (2014) Debate on Bernard Yack's book nationalism and the moral psychology of community. Nations and Nationalism, 20 (3). pp. 395-414. ISSN 1354-5078

Exit, freedom and gender
Kukathas, Chandran (2013) Exit, freedom and gender. In: Borchers, Dagmar and Vitikainen, Annamari, (eds.) On Exit: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Right of Exit in Liberal Multicultural Societies. De Gruyter , Berlin, Germany, pp. 34-56. ISBN 9783110270860

On Sen on comparative justice
Kukathas, Chandran (2013) On Sen on comparative justice. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 16 (2). pp. 196-204. ISSN 1369-8230

E pluribus plurum, or, how to fail to get to utopia in spite of really trying
Kukathas, Chandran (2012) E pluribus plurum, or, how to fail to get to utopia in spite of really trying. In: Bader, Ralf M. and Meadowcroft, John, (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Cambridge companions to philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 289-302. ISBN 9780521120029

Why open borders?
Kukathas, Chandran (2012) Why open borders? Ethical Perspectives, 19 (4). pp. 649-675. ISSN 1370-0049

Expatriatism: the theory and practice of open borders
Kukathas, Chandran (2010) Expatriatism: the theory and practice of open borders. In: Smith, Roger M., (ed.) Citizenship, Borders and Human Needs. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, USA, pp. 324-342. ISBN 9780812242836

One cheer for Constantinople: a comment on Pettit and Skinner on Hobbes and freedom
Kukathas, Chandran (2009) One cheer for Constantinople: a comment on Pettit and Skinner on Hobbes and freedom. Hobbes Studies, 22 (2). pp. 192-198. ISSN 0921-5891

The dilemma of a dutiful daughter: love and freedom in the thought of Kartini
Kukathas, Chandran (2009) The dilemma of a dutiful daughter: love and freedom in the thought of Kartini. In: Satz, Debra and Reich, Rob, (eds.) Toward a Humanist Justice: the Political Philosophy of Susan Moller Okin. Oxford University Press USA, New York, USA, pp. 181-201. ISBN 9780195337396

Anarcho-multiculturalism: the pure theory of liberalism
Kukathas, Chandran (2008) Anarcho-multiculturalism: the pure theory of liberalism. In: Levey, Geoffrey Brahm, (ed.) Political Theory and Australian Multiculturalism. Berghahn Books, pp. 29-43. ISBN 9781845454920

Cultural privacy
Kukathas, Chandran (2008) Cultural privacy. The Monist, 91 (1). ISSN 0026-9662