Professor Clarissa Rile Hayward’s research is in the field of contemporary political theory. It focuses on questions that are central to understanding and to evaluating political life, such as “What is social power, and how does it shape human freedom?” “ What does democratic government entail, and what are its practical and institutional implications?” and “How do social actors create and maintain political identities, and how can we do so in ways that are more democratic?”
Unlike political theorists who attempt to answer questions such as these by relying exclusively on what Rawls calls “ideal theory,” Hayward approaches these problems by examining their concrete manifestations, writing theoretical work that is grounded in the analysis of political institutions and political practices. The result is an engaged form of political theory, addressed not only to other specialists in the field, but more generally to social and political theorists and social scientists who are concerned with questions of power, democracy, and identity.
Hayward’s current book project, tentatively titled Stories and Spaces: How Americans Make Race, intervenes in debates about the narrative construction of identity. Its principal claim is that, although identities are often produced as narratives, they are reproduced most efficiently when that are institutionalized (that is, written into rules, laws, and other institutional forms, such as FDA regulations or zoning laws) and objectified (translated into material form, such as urban and suburban spatial forms). It demonstrates that democratic state actors play an important role in institutionalizing and objectifying racial identities in the contemporary American metropolis, and it makes the case for democratizing processes of identification, by restructuring institutions and spaces.
With Todd Swanstrom (an urbanist in the Political Science Department at UMSL), Hayward recently published Justice and the American Metropolis (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), a volume that brings political theorists into conversation with urbanists from a range of disciplines, from Political Science to Urban Planning to Law. In their contribution to the volume, Hayward and Swanstrom argue that the contemporary American city and its suburbs are the site of “thick injustice”: unjust power relations that are deep and densely concentrated, as well as opaque and relatively intractable. The historical roots of metropolitan injustice, its relation to the structure of local governance in the United States, and its imbrication with physical place render thick injustice difficult to see and difficult to assign responsibility for, and hence difficult to change. This book was the product of a conference held at Washington University, which invited distinguished scholars such as the legal theorists Gerald Frug and Richard Thompson Ford, Susan Fainstein of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and Princeton political theorist Stephen Macedo to address questions about what justice requires in the contemporary metropolis, and how best to promote it.
In addition, Hayward has published a series of articles in journals such as Political Theory and the American Political Science Review, in which she has addressed foundational questions about the meaning of political freedom in a multicultural democracy; the role of representation in promoting legitimacy; the relation among power, structure, and agency; the role of deliberation in democracy; and the strengths and witnesses of “constitutional patriotism.” These articles grew out of, and are informed by, her early work on power (De-Facing Power, Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Hayward’s research has been funded by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Academy of Education, and the Spencer Foundation.