Congratulations to Will Little on the successful defence of his PhD thesis, entitled Reason, Hierarchy, and Political Stability in the English Enlightenment. His Supervisor was Marc Hanvelt.

Interpretations of Enlightenment political thought often view the concept of reason as a subversive tool that was deployed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to undermine frameworks for political life that maintained inequality. This dissertation, through an analysis of the English Enlightenment between 1679 and 1750, challenges this colloquial understanding and argues that, throughout important moments of English history, reason was deployed to maintain hierarchical arrangements in the name of political stability.

Although many scholars have propounded increasingly complex understandings of the Enlightenment in recent years, the concept of reason has maintained its historical status as a subversive tool deployed to dismantle systems of hierarchical political power. This account of reason endures and helps to defend ideas of neutrality and objectivity that are vital to maintaining the legitimacy of liberal democratic institutions.

By showing how the concept of reason was used to safeguard political stability through the maintenance, rather than the destruction, of religious, social, and political inequality, this dissertation not only departs from traditional accounts of reason’s role in modernity and Enlightenment but asks whether ideas of reason are still used to promote similar hierarchies today.