Liam Shields


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Personal profile


I was born and raised in mid-Cheshire. I have a B.A. in Politics and Philosophy from Keele University (2004-2007) and an M.A in Political Philosophy (the idea of toleration) from the University of York, where I was awarded a C & J. B. Morrell scholarship (2007-2008). I studied for my PhD ("The Prospects for Sufficientarianism") in the Philosophy department at the University of Warwick (2008-2011). Shortly after submitting my PhD, I took up the position of Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick, where I worked on a project on Social Justice and Children. In January 2012, I was appointed Lecturer in Political Theory in Politics at the University of Manchester. For the academic year 2013/14 I held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, where I worked on a Spencer Foundation funded project on "Equality of Opportunity and Education". Since January 2015 I have been PhD Admissions and Recruitment Tutor for Politics. In 2016 my first book Just Enough: sufficiency as a demand of justice was published by Edinburgh University Press. In May 2018 I was promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer in Political Theory. 

Research interests

I am currently undertaking research in three areas

My primary area of current research is the just distribution of parental rights. In previous research I have developed the Dual Comparative View of the good enough upbringing. According to this view, the interest of parents and children should be taken into account and so should comparisons with the best alternative parent. In arguing for the Dual Comparative View I reject commonly used standards, such as the child’s best interest’s view and the abuse and neglect view. In future research I will develop an account of the interests of parents, children and third parties and weigh them against each other to determine the just distribution of parental rights. I will then draw out its implications for adoption, fostering, post-separation custodial disputes and initial acquisition of parental rights. I hope this will culminate in a second book.

I also undertake research on equality of opportunity and education. My approach to this topic is inspired by John Rawls’ principle of Fair Equality of Opportunity. I have developed and defended a revised version of that principle, according to which it is especially important that people have sufficient opportunities to develop their talents. I have drawn out the implications of this account for life-long educational opportunities and curriculum design. I have also developed a pluralist account of fairness in university admissions, which incorporates principles of equality, adequacy and parental freedom. In published research I defended a cap on the admission of privately educated students to elite universities at the proportion of school aged children who attend private schools, currently 7% in the UK. I am seeking to develop this account further in the future, specifically to develop rigorous benchmarks that can be used to evaluate admissions at elite English universities today.

I continue to contribute to debates about distributive justice, and in particular sufficientarianism. I have become associated with a version of sufficientarianism according to which sufficiency thresholds mark a change or shift in our reasons to benefit people further. I call this shift-sufficientarianism and I develop this view in my first book Just Enough: sufficiency as a demand of justice. A special issue of the journal Law, Ethics and Philosophy contains seven critical responses to the book and my own reply. Almost all sufficientarians I know reject this position. They hold, instead, that sufficiency thresholds identify a point beyond which we have no reasons to benefit people, or beyond which inequalities are not important for justice. We continue to discuss and debate the differences between us. I will reflect further on the questions and objections they raise about my position and hope to raise a few about their position in the future.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


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