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Dr. Brent L. Pickett


Brent Pickett sitting in front of a portrait of a bucking bronco

Academic Areas of Expertise:

Political theory

Curriculum Vitae


I grew up on a farm in southern Kansas but while attending graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I fell in love with the mountains. So it's great to see the upper part of the Laramie Range every day. My research interests originally focused on postmodernism, especially the work of Michel Foucault. My first book, On the Use and Abuse of Foucault for Politics, was a critique of Foucault from a civic republican direction, while still defending his insights into how contemporary societies function, arguing that such an appreciation should change the policy agenda of social democracy. That work led to delving into some of the philosophy and history pertaining to sexuality and the regulation of the body, which is the topic of my second book, a Historical Dictionary of Homosexuality. My research currently focuses on paternalism, which are actions where X interferes with Y's liberty in order to advance Y's interests. (Think mandatory seat belt laws, or the potential of a soda tax.) Are such policies defensible and, if so, on what basis? This work led to an article in the April, 2018, issue of the journal Polity, which makes an argument that a seemingly disparate group of contemporary proponents of paternalism should be seen as having a common position, one which sharply distinguishes them from previous defenders of state paternalism.

Current Research Projects:

Since my research in paternalism is at the intersection of public policy and political theory, I'd enjoy working with graduate students on either side of that divide. For instance, a topic in city planning concerns how to make neighborhoods more pedestrian and bike-friendly. That, in turn, has implications for obesity rates and overall health. Thus a topic germane to public administration students offers a point of intersection with my work. Likewise, someone interested in inter-governmental organizations could research global anti-obesity efforts, which again raises issues of paternalism touching on my research agenda. Thus, I'm interested in working with students from several different subfields, not just theory (although theory students would be great too).

Fun Facts About Brent:

  1. In high school I co-founded a juggling group and helped pay my way through college with juggling gigs. My senior year in college I had to decide between going to grad school or going on the college performing circuit.
  2. I'm an avid fly fisherman. I have caught at least one trout every month of the year for the last 20 years.

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