Michael teaches the History of Political Thought and Political Theory at Worcester College, University of Oxford. He is an intellectual historian with interests in 18th, 19th, and 20th century French philosophy, and French political, social, and economic thought. He has written widely on French liberalism, French Romantic Socialism, and contemporary French thought. He is author of Tocqueville, Democracy and Social Reform (2003), a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title, and The Postmodernism Reader: Foundational Texts (2004).
Michael’s interest in 18th and 19th century French thought extends to a wide range of topics including the interface between science, technology, and political, social and economic thought. He is interested in competing conceptions of humanity’s relationship with/to nature, and is animated by questions pertaining to how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientists, inventors, engineers, economists, and political and social thinkers understood humanity’s relationship to nature, and engaged with issues around industrialisation and its impact on the natural environment. Michael’s research examines how the work of scientists and engineers feeds into how political and economic theorists engaged with questions around how industrial pollution, industrial hazards, and environmental degradation impacted on social and political life. His recent work explores strands of nineteenth-century French political economy that are sensitive to environmental concerns, strands that are fashioned around an idea of environmental sustainability. Ideas of the circular economy are of particular interest to him. These ideas find a fascinating and novel expression in the work of Pierre (1797-1871) and Jules Leroux (1805-1883). And Michael is, with Ludovic Frobert (CNRS-ENS-Lyon), writing on the life and works of these two socialists.
Michael has over the last ten years been interested in the group of romantic socialists known as the Saint-Simonians, followers of Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825). He has written extensively on Saint-Simonianism, and, in particular, one of the movement’s leading thinkers, Michel Chevalier (1806-1879). He is writing an intellectual biography of Chevalier.
Michael is also interested in the relationship between knowledge, science, and political and social practices. He is co-organiser with Ludovic Frobert (CNRS-ENS-Lyon), Thomas Bouchet (Centre Walras, Université de Lausanne) and Marie Thebaud-Sorger (CNRS-CentreAlexandre Koyré, EHESS) of the Encyclopédie Nouvelle project (http://triangle.ens-lyon.fr/spip.php?rubrique794), an interdisciplinary project that examines the role and impact of Pierre Leroux (1797-1871) and Jean Reynaud’s (1806-1863) Encyclopédie Nouvelle. The project consists of an international network of scholars. Its workshops examine how socialist and republican considerations were at the forefront of the epistemological, methodological, and moral concerns of the Encyclopédie’s entries. The project explores how the very locus of knowledge itself was a politically contested domain.