Normative Political Theory and Empirical Research: Approaches, Methods, Challenges

February 1, 2024 - February 2, 2024
Monash University Prato Centre

Via Pugliesi, 26
Prato 59100

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Workshop: ‘Normative Political Theory and Empirical Research: Approaches, Methods, Challenges’ 

Location: Monash University Prato Centre (Tuscany, Italy) 

Dates: 1-2 February 2024 

Organizers: Matteo Bonotti (Monash University) and Sania Mariam (IIT Bombay-Monash Research Academy) 

Abstract Submission Deadline: 15 September 2023 

Call for Abstracts  

In political and social science, normative and empirical approaches are rarely combined. On the one hand, normative political theorists mainly focus on analysing and interpreting philosophical concepts and arguments regarding morally desirable behaviours and institutions in the political context (Blau 2017; Leopold and Stears 2008; List and Valentini 2016). On the other hand, empirical political and social scientists mostly concentrate on observing and measuring political and social phenomena through quantitative and/or qualitative methods in order to generate knowledge that is based on factual evidence rather than theories, values or beliefs (Bryman 2021; Lowndes et al. 2017). This separation is unfortunate since normative political theory and empirical research can complement each other: the former can help clarify and critically assess the normative values that often (implicitly or explicitly) underlie empirical research, whereas the latter can provide empirical backing for many of the assumptions that underlie political theorists’ normative arguments and proposed policies (Bauböck 2008).  

In recent years, a number of scholars have endeavoured to bridge the divide between normative political theory and empirical research. For example, some have shown how ethnographic research can help expand and refine the scope of normative political theory (Longo and Zacka 2019) whereas others have developed what is known as ‘grounded normative theory’ (GNT), an approach that involves ‘shared commitments to incorporating original empirical data or analysis in a recursive process of theory development striving for accountability to persons in empirical contexts’ (Ackerly et al. 2021). Yet, much work remains to be done in order to identify and critically evaluate the many diverse and complex ways in which normative political theorists and empirical researchers can collaborate across (sub-)disciplinary boundaries and contribute to one another’s work. 

This workshop aims to bring together normative political theorists (interested in) conducting empirical research and empirical researchers (interested in) engaging in normative theorizing in order to generate discussion, reciprocal learning and potential collaborations between them.  

Some of the questions that the workshop aims to address include (but are not limited to) the following:  

  • When does normative political theory require empirical research? 
  • How can normative political theorists decide what kind of empirical research (e.g., experiments, surveys, interviews, etc.) is necessary to strengthen their normative conclusions? 
  • When does empirical political and social science require normative theorizing?  
  • How can normative political theory and empirical research methods and approaches best be integrated? 
  • How can normative political theorists acquire the training necessary to conduct empirical research? 
  • How can empirical political and social scientists acquire the training necessary to engage in normative research? 

While we welcome papers that directly address these theoretical and methodological questions, we expect that many participants will tackle them indirectly, by focusing on specific research questions and topics that pertain to their areas of research expertise. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:  

  • Democratic theory and practice (including deliberative, direct and representative democracy) 
  • Political legitimacy and public justification (including theories of public reason) 
  • (Global) distributive justice  
  • Climate change and environmental justice 
  • Migration and political theory 
  • Gender and political theory 
  • War and political theory 
  • Multiculturalism  

Abstract Submission Guidelines

If you would like to participate in the workshop, please submit a 300-word abstract and a 100-word short biography by 15 September 2023 using this form: (please copy and paste the link into a browser). We welcome submissions from scholars at all career stages. Submissions from PhD students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) are particularly welcome. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by 30 September 2023. Participation in the workshop is free but participants attending in person will be expected to cover their travel and accommodation expenses.  

Workshop Format 

The workshop will be held in English. Although in-person participation is strongly encouraged, the workshop will be held in hybrid format so that those unable to attend in person will be able to participate via Zoom.  

Publication Plans 

The organizers intend to publish the workshop papers in the form of a journal special issue or edited book. Publication plans will be discussed with the participants at the workshop. 


This workshop was supported by IITB-Monash Research Academy funding and by a Monash University – Penn State University 2019–2022 Collaboration Development Fund grant. The organizers are grateful to the funders for their support.


For any inquiries, please contact Matteo Bonotti ([email protected]).

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