I'm part of

About me

Dr Ricardo Blaug is Reader in Democracy and Political Theory, a qualified and experienced psychiatric social worker and an award-winning author and teacher. He has worked as a democratic theorist, an emergency clinician and a public sector manager in the UK, the US and the Netherlands.

Ricardo conducts academic and practical research with a range of scholars, students and public and voluntary organisations. He teaches political theory and political psychology, supervises doctoral students and facilitates a range of undergraduate student-led initiatives in both research and teaching.

As a historian of ideas, Ricardo seeks social, political and psychological understanding of the unconscious politics of institutional life. By re-examining classic political concerns (such as how power corrupts, how democratic governance and citizen engagement can be institutionalised) - and using contemporary psychological and political theory to do so - he seeks to contribute to the emergence of a critical approach to political psychology.

Educated in the US and the UK with Dr. Gene Orro and Professor Robert Paul Wolff, Ricardo took a Master's (PhD ABD) in Social, Political and Recent Continental Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work (CQSW) from Goldsmith's College, London. His doctoral studies in Political Theory were conducted with Professor Garaint Parry and Dr. Maurizio Passerin D'Entrèves at Manchester University's Department of Government.

Teaching

Political Psychology

This third year undergraduate module introduces students to the psychological study of politics and concentrates particularly on issues of power in organisations. The module explores three areas of psychological theory: psychoanalysis, social psychology and cognitive psychology, which it uses to investigate organisational dysfunction, authority and conformity, institutional discrimination, contemporary forms of ideology, collective action and political change. In this module, we will work collaboratively as a research group to bring theory to practice, and to try to understand some of the most complex and confounding issues in society, politics and history. For this, no prerequisites are required; the module identifies and builds on individual student interests and offers theoretical frameworks to inform their ongoing study.

Introduction to Political Theory

This module introduces students to the study of politics and political theory. Students are encouraged to explore and sharpen their own political ideas, gain communication and study skills and analyse the changing political processes taking place around them, both locally and globally. Students on the module begin their study of politics by participating in a variety of practical political activities, simulations, debates and departmental innovations in community engagement. They then analyse these experiences using political ideas presented in lectures and explored in seminars. In this way, the module explores key political concepts (power, authority, democracy, justice, rights, etc.) and shows how they inform political institutions, public debates and policy-making. The module seeks to enhance students' intellectual confidence, to encourage theoretical and practical learning through social interaction and community engagement in an international city: London, and to help students acclimatise to what is often a new educational culture: undergraduate study in an era of globalisation and rapid political change.

Taught modules have included:

  • Innovations in Democratic Practice (Westminster) 
  • Theories of Democracy (Leeds) 
  • History of Political Thought (Manchester & Leeds) 
  • Democracy and Democratisation (Westminster) 
  • Critical Theory (Leeds) 
  • Relations of Theory to Practice (Leeds) 
  • Readings of Niccolo Machiavelli (Leiden) 
  • The Political Thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke (Leiden)

Research

Ricardo's research is currently in the area of political psychology, though he has also examined innovations in democratic practice and public service reform. In particular, he has published on Habermasian critical theory, deliberative democracy, democratic governance innovation and structures to enhance citizen engagement. His work on public services concentrated on Public Value and its use in processes of reform. This has included consultancy work with public sector practitioners, policy-makers, public commissions and think tanks. His current research examines the psychological politics of institutions and seeks an understanding of the often-unconscious effects of organisational structures (hierarchies, markets, networks, democracy) on individual constructions of meaning and identity (cognition, ideology, the sense of private and public self). His studies on the psychological and informational effects of hierarchy and the cognitive processes by which power corrupts both leaders and followers will appear in the paperback version of his book How Power Corrupts, published by Palgrave Macmillan. This forms part of a larger project to use current advances in psychology to investigate political concerns, and in particular, to provide tools for the diagnosis of institutional dysfunction and to inform processes of social change. This work is reflected in books currently underway on (Intermediate)Tyranny Management, The Democracy Field Manual and in research papers articulating a critical approach to the psychological study of politics. Ricardo is a member of the International Society of Political Psychology, undertakes problem-oriented research with The Research Republic and is on the Advisory Board of the Daedalus Trust.

Publications

For details of all my research outputs, visit my WestminsterResearch profile.