My research falls into two main categories united by the problem of legalism, that is, the drive to see political and moral decisions justified by reference to a rule. The first area of research involves emergency powers and their relation to the rule of law; the second, the relationship between political justification and theology. This research agenda has yielded a book with a university press; five refereed journal articles in Review of Politics, History of Political Thought, PS: Political Science & Politics, and Political Science Quarterly; over a dozen conference papers; and a number of invited pieces.

I am currently working on a book on emergency powers and the question of whether they are compatible with the rule of law. In it, I argue that debates over this question reveal different conceptions of the rule of law, conceptions defined by what each participant hopes the rule of law will accomplish. These conceptions are informed, in part, by a vision of how governments should function during crises. A focus on what is required for or permitted under the rule of law consequently produces interminable debate, since we appeal to conceptions of the rule of law in order to discover the best response to crises, while the conceptions we appeal to are defined by our preferred responses to crises. Transcending the focus on the rule of law and adopting a more holistic approach to the problem of crisis government, on the other hand, suggests two ideal types or visions of how to provide effective government without enabling oppressive government. I refer to these as “extralegalism” and “concurrent authority.” Each of these visions is liable to decisive objections, however. While the drawbacks of one vision can be mitigated by relying on some features of the other, this mixing comes at the price of the theoretical coherence of the regime. I conclude, therefore, that the focus on questions of principle that describes current debates over emergency powers distracts us from pragmatic questions without coming to a resolution and, moreover, that the best approach to the question of emergency powers is one that values pragmatism over theoretical coherence.

The second focus of research addresses the question of whether political justification is separable from the kinds of statements that divide religious communities. In order to incorporate more diverse perspectives on this question than just liberalism and the various reactions against it, I adopt a historical approach. The natural law tradition poses a particular challenge to the separation of politics from theology insofar as it argues that there are some statements that we would call theological, since they relate to a cosmic order, that are nonetheless vital to any true account of political legitimacy and that these statements do not (or ought not) divide religious communities. The question of natural law has guided my most recent work on Locke, Aristotle, and Aquinas.

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