Staff profiles

Jonathan Hearn

Jonathan Hearn
Professor Jonathan Hearn
Professor of Political and Historical Sociology
SociologySchool of Social and Political ScienceUniversity of Edinburgh
Room 6.07 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 4242
Research Interests
Theories of social power, the origins and nature of liberal society, social change and evolution, Nationalism and National Identity, The Sociology of Scotland, sociology of competition

Office Hours

Thursdays 3:00-5:00 within semesters.


I am a political and historical sociologist, broadly interested in how we conceptualise and theorise power, its role in society, and associated long-term patterns of historical and social change.  I am also particularly interested in the nature of liberal society, its emergence and fate.  Much of my work is on nationalism and national identity, with particular interest in liberal or civic forms of nationalism, as in Scotland.  I have done ethnographically based empirical research on devolution politics in Scotland, and the role of national identities in a changing Scottish financial sector.  Recently I published a new book on theories of power, which argues that questions of authority and legitimacy need as much attention as more fashionable preoccupations with cryptic forms of domination. Current interests/writing projects include: the impact of the financial crisis on nationalism and the legitimacy of the financial sector; the emergence of reflexive competition as an organising idea/ritual of modern liberal society; and the relationship between nationalism, identity, and biography. 




Theorizing Power, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 

Rethinking Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Claiming Scotland: National Identity and Liberal Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

Recent articles and chapters

'Competition as Ritual and the Legitimation of the Liberal Nation State', in  The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation Building: Ritual and Performance in the Forging of Nations, E. Woods and R. Tsang, (eds), London: Routledge, 2013.

Contribution to: 'Seventh Nations and Nationalism Debate: Joep Leersen's National Thought in Europe, A Cultural History', Nations and Nationalism 19(3): 411-16, 2013.

'Nationalism, Biography and the Ecology of Identity', Humanities Research, Vol XIX, No. 1, pp. 5-22, 2013.

'˜The Strength of Weak Legitimacy: a Cultural Analysis of Legitimacy in Capitalist, Liberal, Democratic Nation-States', Journal of Political Power 4(2): 199-216, 2011.

'Global Crisis, National Blame' in Nations and Globalisation: Conflicting or Complimentary? D. Halikiopoulou and S. Vasilopoulou (eds), London: Routledge, 2011.

'Domination' article in Sage Encyclopaedia of Power, K. Dowding (ed), London: Sage, 2011.

'Small Fortunes: Nationalism, Capitalism and Changing Identities', in National, Identity, Nationalism and Constitutional Change, F. Bechhofer and D. McCrone (eds), Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

'The Origins of Modern Nationalism in the North Atlantic Interaction Sphere', Sociological Research Online 14:5, 2009.


Teaching and Supervision


  • Theories and Theorists in Nationalism Studies (PG)
  • Comparative Perspectives in Nationalism Studies (PG)
  • Power: Conceptualising, Theorising, Investigating (PG)
  • Theories of Power (UG honours)
  • Globalization (UG honours and PG variant)

Supervision: I enjoy supervising Ph.Ds, MSc dissertations, and honours projects, on topics related to my research and teaching interests above, although I am happy to consider supervision beyond this, where appropriate.  I am best suited to supervising work using ethnographic, historical, comparative and qualitative methods, and work concerned with problems of theorisation.

Biographical Note and Qualifications

I attended a radically experimental primary and secondary school in Austin, Texas, modeled on the educational philosophies of A. S. Neill and John Holt.  The School was not accredited by the Texas State Board of Schools and could not award diplomas, so I obtained a 'General Equivalency Diploma'.  During the late 1970s and early 1980s I concentrated on music (guitar, songwriting, composing), working and recording with theatrical groups, modern dance troupes, and several bands in Austin.  In 1986 I turned to undergraduate studies in earnest, earning a BA (1989) in Social Studies, with a concentration in Anthropology, at Bard College.  From there I went to do a Ph.D. (1997) in Cultural Anthropology at the City University of New York, earning an MA en route.  While working on my Ph.D. I taught as an adjunct at several colleges in New York City.  After completing my Ph.D. I taught briefly part-time at the New School for Social Research, and had a post-doc from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in 1998.  I began a joint post in Sociology and Politics at the University of Edinburgh in Autumn 1998, and moved entirely into Sociology three years later.  I continue to play music in my spare time. 

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in four broad areas: (1) the dynamics of social power (domination, authority, legitimacy) in a variety of social contexts; (2) issues in nationalism and national identity; (3) macrosociology, social evolution and social change; (4) the nature and dynamics of liberal society. More specific topics of recent interest, connected to the above, include: competition, the public/private dichotomy, banking and the economic crisis.

If you are interested in being supervised by Jonathan Hearn, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology