Current/Future research activity

Current research interests:

I am writing the third in a series of books on freedom and power in British history, provisionally called The Children of Freedom, which considers the years since 1945. This is after The Rule of Freedom and The State of Freedom. This new work draws on the two Field Day Review essays mentioned on the Home page, the first of which is downloadable from there. These are “The Journey West” (2014) and “Time Thickens: the Other West” (2015). This venture involves a very different kind of writing than my previous work, one that is reflective, part-memoir, more concerned with literary values than before. It is about the spaces of time and memory, about the immigrant, about London and Ireland, and about home and its physical manifestations in the house. It is in part an elegy to an older and now almost vanished rural Ireland and London. It also gives an account of the unconsidered death of industrial Britain, the geographical north/south axis complementing west/east one of the first two essays in the Field Day series. The first essay begins with an account of Koudelka’s photograph on the Home page, which is an image of my west of Ireland kin. As part of this work I am collaborating with the Edinburgh anthropologist Janet Carsten, our theme being “Memory, the house and the political”.

However I am also very much at work on my interests in social and political history (and theory). My current research and writing involve historical approaches to neoliberalism, new readings of state history and state theory, and the development of new forms of political history. These topics make up the working agenda of the group on Foucault, political life and history which is mentioned on my home page. If you are interested in this group please email me-see contact page. Linked to these activities I earlier ran a series of five workshops over 2007-9 with Tony Bennett, Francis Dodsworth and Nikolas Rose. This was on the theme of “Government and Freedom”, and was funded by the British Economic and Social Research Council. The programme and some of the papers for these are available on the website of the Centre for Research in Sociocultural Change at


My recent book on the liberal state centres upon Britain, but ranges over other examples, and includes colonial dimensions in the case of India. The book is titled The State of Freedom: A Social History of the British State since 1800, and was published by Cambridge University Press, 2013.  The book draws on a number of disciplinary fields as well as history, and the approach is a fusion of the new materialism and governmentality approaches. It amounts to a new kind of political history. The book concerns the material forms of state formation in the shape of communication systems, in the shape of the history of the British Post Office It also involves consideration of the material and ethical fashioning of bureaucracy, centred upon a major government department, the India Office. This study of bureaucracy extends into work on elite pedagogy in general. This focuses on the content and material forms of education in the public school and the Oxbridge College. The book concludes with a study of the legacies of the liberal state in the 20th century.

My new work involves a collaboration with Chandra Mukerji, UC San Diego, and we are publishing a jointly-authored article in Theory and Society in 2015 or 6 called “The State of Things: Reconfiguring State History and Theory”. This puts forward a materialist reading of the state and of political history in general. It complements the collaboration I had with Tony Bennett in Tony Bennett and Patrick Joyce (eds.), Material Powers: Cultural Studies, History and the Material Turn (Routledge, 2010).


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A lecture by Patrick Joyce, Cultural history and the necessity of the social, University of Padua, 2009 is available on video.

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