School of Social and Political Science

Professor Jonathan Hearn

Job Title

Professor of Political and Historical Sociology

Hearn profile pic

Room number

Room 6.05

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)



I am a political and historical sociologist, interested in how we conceptualise and theorise power, its role in society, and associated long-term patterns of historical and social change. This connects to an interest in the nature of liberal society, its emergence and fate. My work can be described as historically informed sociological theory. 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. My most recently published book with Manchester University Press (July 2017) is based on ethnographic data collected in a major Scottish bank prior to the 2008 crisis, revisiting that data from a post-crisis perspective.  I am currently working on a book about the historical institutionalisation of political, economic and cultural competition in modern liberal society.

In addition to the above, I have a range of research interests including the usefulness of the concept of 'evolution' for understanding social change, and classical social theory and Scottish Enlightenment thought (especially David Hume and Adam Smith).

I am also President of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN), which runs an annual conference, webinars, and other activities:



Salvage Ethnography in the Financial Sector: the path to economic crisis in Scotland, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017.

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.

Some Articles

'Reframing the History of the Competition Concept: Neoliberalism, Meritocracy, Modernity', Journal of Historical Sociology, 34(2), 2021

‘How to Read the Wealth of Nations (or why the division of labor is more important than competition in Adam Smith)', Sociological Theory, 36(2): 162-184, 2018.

‘Theoretical and methodological considerations for the study of banal and everyday nationalism’, with Marco Antonsich, Nations and Nationalism 24(3): 594-605, July 2018.

'The Culture of Competition in Modern Liberal Societies', Humanities: Christianity and Culture, vol. 48, 2017.

‘Once more with feeling: the Scottish Enlightenment, sympathy, and social Welfare’, Ethics and Social Welfare 10(3): 211-223, 2016.

'Inequality, liberal society, and the balance of power', Revue Internationale de Philosophie, No. 275, 1/2016.

'Demos before Democracy: Ideas of nation and society in Adam Smith’, Journal of Classical Sociology,  6(2): 396-414, 2016.

‘On the social evolution of power to/over’, Journal of Political Power, 7(2): 175-191, 2014.

‘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.

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

‘What’s Wrong with Domination?’, Journal of Power 1(1): 37-49.  2008.

‘National Identity: Banal, Personal, and Embedded’, Nations and Nationalism 13(4): 657-674.  2007.

‘Narrative, Agency and Mood: On the Social Construction of National History in Scotland’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 44(4): 745-769.  2002.

‘Identity, Class and Civil Society in Scotland’s Neonationalism’, Nations and Nationalism 8(1): 15-30.  2002.

'Contesting Visions of the Civil Society Project'.  Special Issue of Critique of Anthropology, 21(4). 2001.

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)
  • Sociology 1B, units on 'Social Structure' and 'Social Change' (UG)

Supervision: I enjoy supervising PhDs, 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.

Research interests

Research interests

Main Themes

  • Theories of social power
  • Origins and nature of liberal society
  • Sociology of competition
  • Social change and evolution
  • Nationalism and national identity
  • Sociology of Scotland
  • Classical sociology and Scottish Enlightenment thought

Topics interested in supervising

I'm happy to supervise on topics within any of the themes above, or to consider interesting suggestions outside of these.

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

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

Mondays 15:00-17:00, or by appointment.

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Hearn J. City and countryside in the imagining of nations. In Pospěch P, Fuglestad EM, Figueiredo E, editors, Politics and Policies of Rural Authenticity. 1 ed. London: Routledge. 2021. (Perspectives on Rural Policy and Planning).
Hearn J. Reframing the history of the competition concept: Neoliberalism, meritocracy, modernity. Journal of Historical Sociology. 2021 May 20;34(2).
Cairns D, Coombs N, Devine T, Hearn J, Jarvie G, MacLeod G et al. Letter concerning the David Hume Tower. 2020.
Marshall A, Allison P, Hearn J. The question of significance: Tall ship sailing and virtue development. Journal of Moral Education. 2020;49(4):396-414.
Hearn J. The Idea of Competition in Dingxin Zhao’s The Confucian-Legalist State. Chinese Sociological Review. 2018 Sep 24.
Hearn J, Antonsich M. Theoretical and methodological considerations for the study of banal and everyday nationalism. Nations and Nationalism. 2018 Aug 9;24(3):594-605.
Hearn J. How to read The Wealth of Nations (or why the division of labor is more important than competition in Adam Smith). Sociological Theory. 2018 Jun 21;36(2):162-184.
Hearn J. Power, culture, identity, and the work of Anthony Smith. Nations and Nationalism. 2018 Apr;24(2):286–291.
Hearn J. Heinrich Popitz’s Phenomena of Power. International Political Anthropology Journal. 2017 Dec 31;10(2):7-12.
Hearn J. Power. In Turner BS, editor, The Wiley‐Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory. Wiley-Blackwell. 2017
Hearn J. Power. In Outhwaite W, Turner SP, editors, Sage Handbook of Political Sociology. Vol. 2. London: SAGE Publications Inc. 2017. 15. (Sage Handbooks).
Hearn J. Salvage Ethnography in the Financial Sector: The Path to Economic Crisis in Scotland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. 160 p. (New Ethnographies).
Hearn J. Vox Populi: Nationalism, Globalization and the Balance of Power in the Making of Brexit. In Outhwaite W, editor, Brexit: Sociological Responses. Anthem Press. 2017. p. 19-30. 2. (Key Issues in Modern Sociology).
Hearn J. The culture of competition in modern liberal societies. Humanities: Christianity and Culture. 2016 Dec 15;48:31-54.
Hearn J. Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities: a symposium. Nations and Nationalism. 2016 Sep 30;22(4):633 - 637.
Hearn J, Lukes S. Power and Economics. In Skidelsky R, Craig N, editors, Who Runs the Economy?: The Role of Power in Economics. 1 ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. 2016. p. 17-29. 2
Hearn J. Once more with feeling: The Scottish Enlightenment, sympathy, and social welfare. Ethics and Social Welfare . 2016 Sep;10(3):211-223.
Antonsich M, (ed.), Mavroudi E, (ed.), Mihelj S, (ed.), Billig M, Yuval-Davis N, Kaufmann E et al. Building inclusive nations in the age of migration. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 2016 Apr 6.
Hearn J. Anderson, Benedict. In Stone J, Dennis RM, Rizova P, Smith AD, Hou X, editors, Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism. Wiley-Blackwell. 2016
Hearn J. Hobsbawm, Eric J. In Stone J, Dennis RM, Rizova P, Smith AD, Hou X, editors, Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism. Wiley-Blackwell. 2016
Hearn J. Inequality, liberal society, and the balance of power. Revue Internationale de Philosophie. 2016 Jan;70(275).
Hearn J. Introduction: Power and liberal society. Revue Internationale de Philosophie. 2016 Jan;70(275):7-13.
Hearn J, (ed.). Introduction: Power and Liberal Society: Aspects philosophiques du pouvoir. Revue Internationale de Philosophie. 2016;275(1/2016):7-13. 2.
Hearn J. Nationalism and globalization: Challenging assumptions. The SAIS Review of International Affairs. 2015 Dec 31;35(2):5-11. 1.
Hearn J. Demos before Democracy: Ideas of Nation and Society in Adam Smith. Journal of Classical Sociology. 2015 Mar;6(2):1-19.
Hearn J. Nationalism and normality: a comment on the Scottish independence referendum. Dialectical Anthropology. 2014 Dec 1;38(4):505-512.
Hearn J, Kukathas C, Miller D, Yack B. Debate on Bernard Yack's book Nationalism and the Moral Psychology of Community. Nations and Nationalism. 2014 Nov;20(3):395-414.
Hearn J. On the social evolution of power to/over. Journal of Political Power. 2014;7(2):175-191.
Brincker B, Hearn J, Zimmer O, Leerssen J. Seventh nations and nationalism debate: Joep Leerssen's National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History. Nations and Nationalism . 2013 Jul 1;19(3):409-433.
Hearn J. Nationalism, Biography and the Ecology of Identity. Humanities Research. 2013;19(1):5-22.
Hearn J. Competition as Ritual and the Legitimation of the Liberal Nation State. In Woods E, Tsang R, editors, The Cultural Politics of Nationalism and Nation-Building: Ritual and Performance in the Forging of Nations. Routledge: London. 2013. p. 68-83
Hearn J, (ed.), Wicke C, (ed.). Nationalism and Biography: European Perspectives. Humanities Research. 2013.
Hearn J. Theorizing Power. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 264 p.
Hearn J. The Strength of Weak Legitimacy: A Cultural Analysis of Legitimacy in Capitalist, Liberal, Democratic Nation-States. Journal of Political Power. 2011 Aug;4(2):199-216.
Hearn J. Global Crisis, National Blame. In Halikiopoulou D, Vasilopoulou S, editors, Nationalsim and Globalisation: Conflicting or Complementary?. Routledge. 2011
Hearn J. Domination. In Dowding K, editor, Sage Encyclopedia of Power. London: SAGE Publications Inc. 2011. p. 203-206
Hearn J. The Origins of Modern Nationalism in the North Atlantic Interaction Sphere. Sociological Research Online . 2009;14(5). 12.
Hearn J. Small Fortunes: Nationalism, Capitalism and Changing Identities. In Bechhofer F, McCrone D, editors, National Identity, Nationalism and Constitutional Change. Palgrave Macmillan. 2009. p. 144-162
Hearn J. What's Wrong with Domination? Journal of Power. 2008;1(1):37-49.
Hearn J. ‘National Identity: Banal, Personal, and Embedded’. Nations and Nationalism. 2007;13(4):657-674.
Hearn J. Rethinking Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006.
Hearn J. ‘Big City: Civic Symbolism and Scottish Nationalism’. Scottish Affairs. 2003;42:57-82.
Hearn J. ‘Narrative, Agency and Mood: On the Social Construction of National History in Scotland’. Comparative Studies in Society and History . 2002;44(4):745-769.
Hearn J. ‘Identity, Class and Civil Society in Scotland’s Neonationalism’. Nations and Nationalism . 2002;8(1):15-30.
Hearn J. ‘Enlightenment’. In Crowther J, Martin I, Shaw M, editors, Renewing Democracy in Scotland: an educational sourcebook. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. 2002. p. 13-16
Hearn J. ‘Taking Liberties': Contesting Visions of the Civil Society Project. Critique of Anthropology. 2001 Dec;21(4):339-360.
Hearn J. Scotland. In Ember M, Ember CR, editors, Countries and their Cultures. New York: New York: Macmillan Reference USA. 2001. p. 1940-1952
Hearn J. Claiming Scotland: National Identity and Liberal Culture. Polygon at Edinburgh, 2000.
Hearn J. "The Social Contract: Re-framing Scottish Nationalism". Scottish Affairs. 1998;23:14-26.
Hearn J. Scottish Nationalism and the Civil Society Concept: Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?". PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 1997;20(1):32-39.
Hearn J. The Colony at the Core: Scottish Nationalism and the Rhetoric of Colonialism. In Marcus A, editor, Anthropology for a Small Planet: Culture and Community in a Global Environment. New York: Brandywine Press. 1996. p. 50-63