Dr Richard Shorten

Dr Richard Shorten

Department of Political Science and International Studies
Associate Professor in Political Theory

Contact details

Department of Political Science and International Studies
School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Richard Shorten is a political theorist who specialises in the history of political ideas, with particular reference to twentieth-century Europe.


  • PhD Political Science (Birmingham)
  • MA Social Research (Birmingham)
  • BA Modern History and Political Science (Birmingham)


Richard Shorten is a political theorist and historian of ideas.  The main themes of his work centre on political writing, violence and injury.  His research makes special use of approaches from ideology, rhetoric and literature.  To date his work has had a particular but not exclusive focus on Europe and America in the mid-twentieth century.

His first book, Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual Sources of Nazism and Stalinism, 1945 to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), is an intervention in widespread disagreement about the nature of totalitarianism in modern social and political philosophy. 

His second book, The Ideology of Political Reactionaries (Routledge, 2022) is an exercise in the interpretation of right-wing political thought that profiles the writings of an eclectic range of figures from past and present.  The book argues that a continuity of beliefs and styles is too often obscured.  

His current project is to explore the topic of vulnerability as it appears in the political writings of three exemplary exponents of anti-totalitarian, progressive thought: Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus and George Orwell.  Specifically, this project asks: what, in the present, might be recoverable from their distinctive experiments in ‘voice’?

Future work is planned which will explore these ongoing themes of political writing, violence and injury in particular relation to the concept of responsibility.

Alongside the books, his own writing has appeared in prominent journals in the fields of both political science and history, and, especially, in the Journal of Political Ideologies, where he has contributed five articles.

In addition to academic writing, he has contributed a number of opinion and think pieces, in such places as PSA Blog, The Cicero Foundation, Ideology Theory Practice, The Conversation, and The Birmingham Perspective.


  • History of Political Ideas (second-year undergraduate)
  • Political Theory and Social Criticism (third-year undergraduate)

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Shorten is happy to consider supervising doctoral researchers in the broad areas of modern political philosophy, ideology or rhetoric.


  • Fascism, Marxism and totalitarianism
  • Reactionaries and conservatives
  • The political thought of Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus and George Orwell
  • Intellectual politics of the Cold War

Other activities

Other professional appointments

  • Membership of Political Studies Association


Highlight publications

Shorten, R 2021, The Ideology of Political Reactionaries. Routledge Innovations in Political Theory, Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003224891

Shorten, R 2021, 'The anti-totalitarian left between atrocity and justice', Il Pensiero Storico, vol. 9, pp. 119-150. <https://ilpensierostorico.com/totalitarismi-passati-presenti-e-futuri/>

Shorten, R 2020, 'Why bad books matter: past and future directions for understanding reactionary ideology', Politics, Religion & Ideology, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 401-422. https://doi.org/10.1080/21567689.2019.1697873

Shorten, R 2018, 'The Cold War as Comparative Political Thought', Cold War History, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 385-408. https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2018.1434508

Shorten, R 2018, Totalitarianism and the End of the End-of-Ideology. in M Freeden (ed.), Re-energising Ideology Studies: The Maturing of a Discipline . London.

Recent publications


Shorten, R 2012, Modernism and Totalitarianism: Rethinking the Intellectual Sources of Nazism and Stalinism, 1945 to the Present. Modernism and..., Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.


Shorten, R 2017, 'Totalitarianism and the End of the End-of-Ideology', Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 147-168. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2017.1306959

Shorten, R 2015, 'Reactionary rhetoric reconsidered', Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 20, no. 2, 4, pp. 179-200. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2015.1034466

Shorten, R 2015, 'Rethinking Totalitarian Ideology: Insights from the Anti-Totalitarian Canon', History of Political Thought, vol. XXXVI, no. 4, pp. 726-761. <http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/hpt/2015/00000036/00000004/art00005>

Shorten, R 2013, 'How to study ideas in politics and ‘influence’ : a typology', Contemporary Politics, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 361-378. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569775.2013.835110


Shorten, R, Haddock, B & Roberts, P 2011, The Rhetoric of Moral Equivalence. in Bruce Haddock, Peri Roberts and Peter Sutch (eds.), Evil in Contemporary Political Theory. Edinburgh University Press.

Book/Film/Article review

Shorten, R 2023, 'Review of Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin: Freedom, Politics and Humanity, by Kei Hiruta', Review of Politics, vol. 85, no. 2, pp. 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670522001152

Shorten, R 2021, 'Becoming George Orwell: by John Rodden, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2020, 348 pp., $29.95/25.00 (cloth)', European Legacy. https://doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2021.2010319

Shorten, R 2019, 'The Rise of the Alt-Right. By Thomas J. Main. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2018. 320p. $24.99 cloth.', Perspectives on Politics, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 243-245. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592718003638

Shorten, R 2018, 'Book Reviews: Perspectives on the Entangled History of Communism and Nazism: A Comnaz Analysis', European Legacy, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 342-43. https://doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2017.1402524

Shorten, R 2017, 'Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Total Domination:The Holocaust, Plurality, and Resistance. By Michal Aharony. London: Routledge, 2015. 248 pp. $144 cloth. ISBN 978-0415702560', Arendt Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 177-180. https://doi.org/10.5840/arendtstudies2017111

Shorten, R 2016, 'Rethinking Fascism and Dictatorship in Europe', European Legacy. https://doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2016.1237434

Shorten, R 2013, 'VLADIMIR TISMANEANU. The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century', The American Historical Review, vol. 118, no. 5, pp. 1594-1595. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/118.5.1594

Shorten, R 2011, 'The Nihilist Order, Volumes I, II and III. By David Ohana. Sussex: Sussex Academic Press, 2009.', European History Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 715-717. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265691411417598ab

Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Shorten, R 2023, Reactionism. in J Chacko Chennattuserry, M Deshpande & P Hong (eds), Encyclopedia of New Populism and Responses in the 21st Century. 1 edn, Springer Nature, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-9859-0_321-1

View all publications in research portal


reactionaries; politics of the hard right (history, ideology, rhetoric); totalitarianism (history, ideology, rhetoric)