PSA 66th Annual International Conference

21 – 23 March 2016, Hilton Brighton Metropole & The Grand Brighton, Brighton

Politics and the Good Life

Image courtesy of Visit Brighton

Ever since thought was directed towards and attached itself to politics, the question of The Good Life has been a fundamental one. The ancient Athenians recorded their musings on politics, ethics and knowledge, and they developed both a descriptive and an evaluative vocabulary in order to assess different political forms of organisation. Most famously, Plato sought to align The Good with justice. This year’s PSA conference sets out to re-examine the notion of The Good afresh, and to consider its relevance and resonance to politics in the early twenty-first century.

Our twenty-first century world is extensive, complex and diverse, but can we retrieve some notion of The Good to apply to this world? The Greeks, for instance, aligned politics with the polis, the city-state, and this was conducted not only for the sake of life, but also with the aim of ‘living well’. Is there a contemporary answer to this question, which makes sense?; is it that there are different and competing interpretations of that good?; or, finally, is it simply no longer relevant to seek to relate complex contemporary political questions to a concept seemingly so simplistic as The Good? What bearing, for instance does The Good have on responses to the forthcoming EU referendum or, indeed, to questions relating to what scales or levels are appropriate for organising politics in this century: local, national, regional, continental, global, multi-level?

To what extent does the notion of The Good and The Good Life orient the form of politics predominating in the early twenty-first century – electoral-representative democracy – and the policy framework adopted by its political parties? Do these parties use this term, or do they have alternative words or phrases that stand in for The Good, such as ‘progressive’, ‘efficient’, ‘freedom’, and so on? Or is it that The Good and The Good Life is something spurned within parliament, and instead features in extra-parliamentary discourses, orienting new social movements and revolutionary political developments? Alternatively, has the object of politics shifted from working out what ‘living well’ and The Good Life might constitute, turning its attention to warding off The Bad Life of terrorism, geopolitical conflict, climate change, other environmental challenges, poverty and inequality? Is the only option now available politically not the best but, rather, the least worst?

What impact, in turn, do wider social developments, such as the proliferation of political identities and movements (feminism, LGBT, nationalisms, ethnicities and ethnocentrism, environmentalism, religious revivalism and fundamentalisms) have on The Good and our understanding of it? Is such pluralism an accurate account of our societies and, if so, does this inherent pluralism necessarily entail discord, as opposed to the concord and harmony that the ancient Greeks and medieval philosophers traditionally associated with The Good? Is there a particular voting system that can more effectively account for the purported pluralism: does it lend itself to proportional representation, for instance? Or does this prompt a more fundamental rethinking of the electoral-representative model of politics, and point towards more recent interventions in democratic theory and practice, such as the deliberative model, the populisms of both left and right gaining ground throughout Europe, or more radical approaches towards or away from democracy itself?

Finally, there is the question of methodology. Is it the case that political science avoids ethical questions such as The Good, leaving the field open to political philosophy and other theoretical approaches; or does that constitute an over-simplistic response, and scientific approaches to politics can – and do – incorporate aspects of The Good? In short, what is the relationship between politics as it is practiced, and the knowledges – whether scientific, historical, philosophical, or other – we use to apply to this field of study?

The theme of the conference is long-standing, but it forces us to confront the way in which both politics is practiced and ought to be practiced, and how we can deploy our understanding and methodologies to this field of study.

We hope that the hedonistic setting of Brighton serves as an extra inducement to welcome you to the PSA conference in 2016!

Paper and Panel Proposals

The deadline for panel and paper proposals has now passed and no further submissions will be accepted.

Paper/panel acceptance and rejection emails were sent out in late November. Any questions about any aspects of the conference programme should be directed to the academic convenors at

Click here for details of the conference programme

Full papers must be uploaded by all conference participants by Friday 11 March 2016

To upload your paper click on the ‘My conference details’ menu option on the menu on the right hand side of the page and then select the 'My panels and papers' tab – here you will have the option to upload your paper.

Graduate Access Fund

The deadline for the Access Fund has now passed. Decisions on applications will be sent to applicants in advance of the 1st February.


Registration for the 66th PSA Annual International Conference is now closed - onsite registration will open from 08:00 on Monday 21 March in the ussex Lounge at the Hilton Brighton Metropole. Registration rates are as follows:

Conference participants (paper givers and panel chairs/discussants) must register by Wednesday 20th January to ensure inclusion in the programme.

Early Bird Rates (last day to book at this rate is Monday 1st February)
Member = £199
Graduate member = £90
Non-member = £285
Graduate non-member = £135

Standard Rates
Member = £235
Graduate member = £125
Non-member = £320
Graduate non-member = £165

Postgraduate Access Fund

Applications for the Postgraduate Access fund will open along with conference registration in late November. The deadline for applications will be mid January 2016.

PSA Postgraduate members who have had a paper proposal accepted for the conference will be eligible to apply. Please note that the Access Fund does not cover travel costs, it is for conference registration and accommodation only.

Conference Venue

The conference will be held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole and The Grand Brighton. The venues are within easy reach of major travel links just off the A23 and only fifteen minutes walk from Brighton railway station (five minutes by car). Gatwick Airport is 30 minutes from Hilton Brighton Metropole and The Grand Brighton, and Central London is less than an hour by train.

Conference Dinner

This year's Conference Dinner will be held at the stunning Grade I listed Brighton Dome on the evening of Tuesday 22nd March 2016. Tickets are priced at £50.00 and can be purchased by clicking the orange 'Book your place' box at the top of the page.

We are delighted to announce that this year's after dinner speaker will be Steve Bell, political cartoonist at the Guardian.

Accommodation in Brighton

Working together with Visit Brighton, we have secured discounted hotel rooms across a range of hotels, which are available to book here. Bookings will close on Monday 14 March 2016.

Childcare at the Conference

Following a trial at the 2015 conference in Sheffield the PSA plans to offer an onsite childcare facility for delegates. For further details please contact The final deadline to book a place for your child is Monday 1 February 2016.


For travel information click here

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Conferences

This year undergraduate and postgraduate conferences will be organised alongside the main PSA Annual International Conference.

For further details about the PSA Undergraduate Research Conference, a one day event organised by a team of undergraduate students and academic staff which will take place on Thursday 24 March 2016 on campus at the University of Brighton please click here.

For further details of the Postgraduate Network 2016 Conference please click here.