Dr Richard Shorten

Dr Richard Shorten

Department of Political Science and International Studies
Senior Lecturer 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 who specialises in the history of political ideas, with particular reference to twentieth-century Europe. His most substantive work to date has been on totalitarianism.  On that topic he is author of a book, Modernism and Totalitarianism, and a range of journal articles, as well as a set of various other pieces.  Currently, he is working on two monograph projects: first, the ideology of political reactionaries; second, the comparative political thought of the Cold War.

Before joining the department full-time Richard worked as a researcher within the Centre for Political Ideologies at the University of Oxford. Since that time, an area of research beyond the field of the history of political ideas has been political language and rhetoric.


  • POLS 102 Introduction to Political Theory (from 2019/20)
  • POLS G77 Arguing against Tyranny (also from 2019/20)

Postgraduate supervision

Richard is particularly happy to consider supervising doctoral researchers in the broad area of modern political thought and ideas.  He is either recently or currently supervising projects on Edmund Burke, Hannah Arendt, political speechmaking and the ethics of violence.  He is especially interested in future projects that overlap with his central interests, as below.


Research groups: Political theory

Major research interests

  • Totalitarian political thought
  • Political reactionaries
  • Cold War political thought
  • History of twentieth-century political ideas in Europe
  • Political ideology and rhetoric
  • Political religion

Other activities

Other professional appointments

  • Membership of Political Studies Association


Shorten, R. (2017) 'Totalitarianism and the end of the end-of-ideology', Journal of Political Ideologies, 22/2, pp. 147-168 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2017.1306959

Shorten, R. (2015) 'Rethinking Totalitarian Ideology: Insights from the Anti-Totalitarian Canon', History of Political Thought, 36/4, pp. 726-761 http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/hpt/2015/00000036/00000004/art00005

Shorten, R. (2015) 'Reactionary rhetoric reconsidered', Journal of Political Ideologies, 20/2, pp. 172-192 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569317.2015.1034466

Shorten, R. (2013) 'How to study ideas in politics and "influence": a typology', Contemporary Politics, 19/4, pp. 361-78 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13569775.2013.835110

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

Shorten, R. (2011) ‘The Rhetoric of Moral Equivalence’ in Bruce Haddock, Peri Roberts and Peter Sutch, eds. Evil in Contemporary Political Theory.  Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 177-203.

Shorten, R. (2011) ‘Towards a political rhetoric of wrongdoing: the case of moral equivalence’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 16/2, pp. 195-219

Shorten, R. (2010) ‘Political Theology, Political Religion and Secularisation’, Political Studies Review, 8/2, pp. 180-191

Shorten, R. (2009) ‘The Failure of Political Argument: The Languages of Anti-Fascism and Anti-Totalitarianism in Post-September 11th Discourse’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 11/3, pp. 479-503

Shorten, R. (2008) ‘Totalitarianism’ in Vincent N. Parrillo, ed. Encyclopedia of Social Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, Vol. 2., pp. 946-7

Shorten, R. (2007) ‘Hannah Arendt on Totalitarianism: Moral Equivalence and Degrees of Evil in Modern Political Violence’ in Richard H. King and Dan Stone, eds. Hannah Arendt and the Uses of History: Imperialism, Nation, Race and Genocide. New York: Berghahn, pp. 173-190

Shorten, R. (2007) ‘The Status of Ideology in the Return of Political Religion Theory’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 12/2, pp. 163-187

Shorten, R. (2006) ‘The Ambiguities of Antecedents and Legacies: Political Ideas and Political Extremes in the Twentieth Century’, European History Quarterly, 36/4, pp. 574-585.

Shorten, R. (2006) ‘Conceptions of “the political” – a note on contrasting motifs in Hannah Arendt’s treatment of totalitarianism’, HannahArendt.net, 2/1, 13pp.

Shorten, R. (2004) ‘Europe’s Twentieth Century in Retrospect? A Cautious Note on the Furet/Nolte Debate’, The European Legacy, 9/3, pp. 285-304

Shorten, R. (2003) ‘The Enlightenment, Communism and Political Religion: Reflections on a Misleading Trajectory’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 8/1, pp. 13-37.   Reprinted in Bryan Turner, ed. (2010) Secularization. London: Sage, Vol. 1., pp. 201-228.

Shorten, R. (2002) ‘François Furet and Totalitarianism: A Recent Intervention in the Misuse of a Notion’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 3/1, pp. 1-34.

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