24 March 2016, 10–11 Pavilion Parade, University of Brighton

Politics and the Good Life

An undergraduate conference will be held in association with the Political Studies Association Conference on 24th March 2016.  The theme for this year’s conference will be ‘Politics and the Good Life’:

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. Our twenty-first century world is extensive, complex and diverse, but can we retrieve some notion of The Good to apply to this world? Are there different and competing interpretations of that good? Or 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 to questions relating to what scales or levels are appropriate for organising politics in this century: local, national, regional, continental, global, multi-level?

For further information about the conference theme see the main PSA Conference website.

The aim is to promote political and ethical discussion amongst undergraduate students in tandem with the discussions being held by the PSA. The conference will consist of friendly seminar setting encouraging lively debate and will conclude with a presentation by a speaker from the official PSA conference. Students are invited to submit papers to present on an informal panel or simply just to attend and participate in discussion.

Paper and Panel Proposals

Paper and panel submissions are now closed.

You will be informed as to whether your proposal has been accepted by 15 February 2016. Panel sessions will consist of up to four presenters, who should plan to speak for between five and ten minutes each, in order to ensure time for discussion.

Please send queries to either Katie Lewis (K.Lewis6@uni.brighton.ac.uk) or Sam Yardley (S.Yardley1@uni.brighton.ac.uk) with the subject line 'PSA Undergraduate Conference 2016'.


Click here for the PSA UG Conference Programme

Keynote Speaker: Professor Alan Finlayson, University of East Anglia
'Asserting, Amusing, Affecting?: Political Rhetoric in the twenty-first century'

Democratic politics has always involved a lot of public communication: talking, arguing and debating. But how this happens has been subject to a lot of change: to the 'stages' from which people may communicate their politics; to the kinds of people who are allowed (or not allowed) to take part; to the kinds of political arguments we make. In this lecture I will show what the theory and analysis of rhetoric can bring to our understanding of political communication and to public arguments about 'the good life'. In addition to outlining some of the key concepts and methods of 'Rhetorical Political Analysis' I will also reflect on how the forms and functions of rhetoric are changing as part of much wider and deeper changes in the ecology of public communication. The great Roman rhetorician Cicero said that a great speech should aim to prove, to please and to persuade. Do new technologies of public communication make these goals easier to attain or have they changed irrevocably the ways in which we talk politics?

Keynote Speaker: Giuliana Monteverde, Ulster University
Feminist Reflections on The Good Life

“For some, the good life is the happy life.  Or the virtuous person is the happy person.  Or the best society is the happiest society.  Happiness becomes not only the thing we want, whatever it is, but a measure of the good, such that happiness becomes a sign that the good must have already been achieved”
Sara Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness, p205

This talk draws upon two contemporary philosophical texts that explore self-help, happiness and The Good Life, and offers some reflection on these themes in light of contemporary feminist politics.  Robert Porter and Sara Ahmed point to the proliferation of happiness industries, referring to self-help books, positive psychology, popular non-fiction and (often Orientalist) interpretations of Eastern spiritual practice.  Porter suggests that self-help gurus have supplanted classical philosophy, and contends that contemporary philosophy, or more broadly, critical theory, should take the place of these gurus and speak to the everyday politics of everyday lives.  Ahmed takes a deconstructive approach, and questions what it is we really mean when we talk of happiness: whose happiness? Whose Good Life?  This talk will draw on these texts to reflect upon the potential of a Feminist Good Life and what this might look like.

Conference Venue

The event will take place in Brighton University’s Pavilion Parade building in the centre of Brighton overlooking both the Pier and Brighton Pavilion.

Venue address:

10–11 Pavilion Parade
East Sussex
BN2 1RA 

For a map and directions please click here


Registration for the conference will open in December 2015. In order to cover costs of room bookings and refreshments, there will be a £10 fee for attending the conference.


For Brighton travel information click here