4 Stellen in Utrecht: „The Business Corporation as a Political Actor“

An der Universität Utrecht sind 2 Promotionsstellen und 2 Postdocs im Projekt „The Business Corporation as a Political Actor“ mit besonderer Relevanz für die Politische Theorie und Philosophie ausgeschrieben – Deadline ist bereits der 25.2. Hier die genauen Informationen:


2 PhD positions and 2 postdoc positions, in project ‘The Business Corporation as a Political Actor’ at Utrecht University


Job description

Companies are being regulated by politics, but they also shape the political arena themselves, whenever they influence politicians and political parties. Moreover, companies fulfill public functions such as providing public goods, regulating their own business activities, or addressing societal problems, like environmental harms. Can such a mixture of private activity and public responsibility be legitimate, in a democratic society? Doesn’t this give corporations too much political power? Are multinationals different in this respect from other companies? These are central questions in the recently awarded ERC-Consolidator Grant-project ‘The Business Corporation as a Political Actor’.


The project is based on the hypothesis that a new social contract is necessary to legitimate the public role of contemporary corporations. This requires transplanting notions traditionally used for legitimizing states – like respecting human rights, democratic procedures, and standards of social justice – to corporations. Is such a thing possible? To answer this question, the project engages in a philosophical reflection on the possibilities to apply existing political theories of legitimacy to corporations. It combines this with practical case studies on different types of regulation of corporate activity: corporate governance regulating, tax policies, and competition law, etc. The home base of the project is in political philosophy, but it aims to integrate insights from other disciplines, such as law, economics, political science and history.


You will work under the supervision of the program leader, Rutger Claassen. You will be part of a research team consisting of two PhD-candidates and two postdoctoral researchers. You will play an active role in the research team, organize and take part in workshops, public events and other activities. The positions are based at the Ethics Institute, which is part of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Utrecht University, which provides a stimulating and internationally oriented research environment. All positions start at September 1st, 2020.


Phd Position 1: ‘The Democratic Accountability of the Corporation‘ (4 years at 1.0 fte)

The first Phd project inquires whether legitimate corporate activity requires democratization. This will require an account of how internal democratisation (i.e. ‘workplace democracy ‘) as well as external democratisation (representation of outside stakeholders in corporate decision-making) can be justified, and how both dimensions can be integrated into one coherent democratic theory. Furthermore, the subproject will address the question which variations in regimes of corporate governance can be distinguished in a global context, and how each of them embody the ideals of democracy.


PhD Position 2: ‘Social Justice for Corporations’ (4 years at 1.0 fte)

The second Phd project aims to develop a theory of social justice for corporations; identifying to what standards of fair corporate conduct corporations should be held to. This will include an account of the division of moral labour between corporations and governments, what substantive duties corporations owe to their employees, and which duties of fair taxation corporations owe to the political community(ies) in which they operate.


Postdoc position 1: ‘Transnational Corporations and Globalization’ (2,5 years at 1.0 fte)

The first postdoc position addresses the exercise of political power by, specifically, transnational corporations. It asks the question whether the complexities that arise when corporations operate in several countries change the (application of) legitimacy conditions such as the rule of law, democracy and justice, compared to corporations only operating in one domestic context. Furthermore, the subproject will normatively evaluate the current global regime of trade and investment rules and ask whether different cultures have different notions of justice to evaluate the outcomes of such trade and investment practices.


Postdoc position 2: ‘Economic Theories of the Corporation‘ (2,5 years at 1.0 fte)

This second postdoc position is on a project which seeks to integrate insights from prevailing economic theories of the firm into the discussion about a politically legitimate role of corporations. Can economic theories account for corporate power? To what extent do economic constraints arising from market competition make it more difficult to render corporate political power legitimate? Moreover, the subproject will evaluate whether competition law/policy ought to remain focused (as it has been) on criteria of economic efficiency, or rather whether it ought to be re-focused on combatting political power; and if the latter, how.



·      For the postdoc positions: You have completed a PhD in philosophy or in a related field; or a PhD dissertation in one of these fields already accepted by the PhD Committee. Additional knowledge in a field relevant to the project (especially: law, economics, political science, history, sociology or business/management studies) is welcome.

·      For the PhD positions: You have completed a Master in philosophy or in a related field. Additional knowledge in a field relevant to the project (especially: law, economics, political science, history, sociology or business/management studies) is welcome.

·      You are specialised in ethics and/or political philosophy, for example in the field of political authority/legitimacy, democratic theory and/or theories of justice.

·      You have an excellent track record and research skills, relative to experience; and excellent academic writing and presentation skills.

·      You have the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

·      You have an active interest in interdisciplinary work which connects philosophical analysis to other relevant disciplines and societal challenges.



For the Phd’s: We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for the duration of 18 months. In case of a good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total). The gross salary ranges between €2,325 in the first year and €2,972 in the fourth year (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment.

For the Postdocs: We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for a total of 2,5 years. Initially the contract will be for one year. In case of good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining two years. The gross salary – depending on previous qualifications and experience  – ranges between €3,389 and €4,274 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. 

For both: Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here


About the Organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the Faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.



N.B. Before applying, please read the full project description, which includes a description of the subproject for which you want to apply.


To apply, please upload the following documents:

(1) a one-page letter of motivation; followed by a one-page research note, setting out your ideas about how to work out the specific subproject for which you apply (see the subproject description in the PDF above);

(2) a curriculum vitae of maximum 3 pages, including the names and contact details of two scholars who can be contacted for a reference;

(3) One writing sample of maximum 20 pages.

(4): only for the Phd Positions: grade transcripts.


Candidates can apply for either one or both of the PhD-projects/postdoc projects. In case you apply for both projects, you can write a combined research notes of 1-2 pages.


Interviews are scheduled on 18 and 19 March. Employment will become effective by 1 September 2020. To apply, please click here for the Phd-positions and the Post-doc positions.


The application deadline is 25/02/2020.

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