Political Philosophy

The Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy is administered by Steven Wall (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona), in conjunction with David Sobel.

This prize is now closed. Please check back in 2025 for the next prize cycle!


Current Competition Details

The Marc Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy is an essay competition open to scholars who, at the time of submission deadline, are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or are students currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible and should direct inquiries to the Editors of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, c/o Steven Wall. Those who have previously won this award (in Political Philosophy) are ineligible, as are any invited papers in the year of the award. (Those invited to present in previous years are eligible if they submit a different paper for blind review, and if they meet all the conditions.)

The award for the prize-winning essay is $5,000, and winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. A condition of the award is that the author (1) present the paper at the following annual Workshop for Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, and (2) commit to having the paper published in the associated volume of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy and to not publishing it elsewhere prior to that publication. Submission instructions and more information about the workshop can be found at https://oxfordstudiespoliticalphilosophy.sbs.arizona.edu/.

Submitted essays must present original research on central issues in political or social philosophy, such as moral issues relating to the state or the justification of force, authority, obligation, justice, freedom, rights, exploitation, oppression, etc. Essays should be between 7,500 and 12,000 words. Coauthored papers are eligible, but only if all authors are eligible. Up to two papers by a given author will be considered, as long as the author is not sole author of both. (For example, for a given person, a single-authored paper and a co-authored paper will be considered, but two single-authored papers will not both be considered.) Papers should be uploaded after logging in at https://oxfordstudiespoliticalphilosophy.sbs.arizona.edu/. Because refereeing will be blind, authors should omit all remarks and references that might disclose their identities. The winner will be determined by the three editors of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy.


Prize Winners

2023 Winner

Daniel Wodak, University of Pennsylvania

Title: "One Person, One Vote" (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy join in congratulating Daniel Wodak as the winner of the 2023 Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy for his paper “One Person, One Vote.” This paper will be published in Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy.

Daniel Wodak’s “One Person, One Vote” powerfully challenges a widely endorsed slogan in democratic societies, arguing that no current account of the one person, one vote requirement can explain why presumptively undemocratic practices, such as plural voting and vote dilution, violate it. A defensible account of the requirement, the paper provocatively concludes, pushes us toward radical conclusions, such as the possibility that all district-based voting systems including those used in the US House of Representative, Senate, and Electoral College, violate this minimal demand of political equality.

Daniel Wodak is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and of Law at the University of Pennsylvania.


“One person, one vote” (OPOV) is a widely accepted axiom of democratic theory. But it is often left undefined, and when we look for definitions we find dissensus without debate. Worse yet, I argue, none of the four prominent accounts of OPOV in political science, law, and philosophy identifies a formal, procedural condition of political equality which explains why certain practices—plural voting and vote dilution—are inegalitarian. This makes what it means to have an “equal vote” or an “equal say” an urgent problem in democratic theory. I close by showing why OPOV, which is often taken to be a modest and minimal condition of political equality, may also turn out to be fairly radical.

Daniel Viehoff is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at NYU. Professor Viehoff’s paper was selected out of 79 submissions in the 2021 prize cycle.


Many citizens of liberal democracies are both wedded to fundamental tenets of liberal political morality and robustly committed to democracy. Recent liberal arguments for instrumentalism about democracy have sought to cast doubt on the compatibility of these allegiances, charging that core elements of liberal political morality disallow the procedural justifications of democracy on which robust democratic commitments rest. This essay shows that these arguments fail: we can accept the liberal principles and values to which these arguments appeal, and yet invoke democratic procedural goods in the justification of democratic arrangements. By delineating the space that remains for procedural considerations within a broadly liberal political morality, this essay provides an outline for justifications of democracy that take equally seriously the democratic and the liberal commitments many citizens of liberal democracies endorse.

2019 Winner

Helen Frowe, Stockholm University

Title: “The Duty to Save and the Duty to Minimise Harm” (PDF)

Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy and Director of the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. Professor Frowe’s paper was selected out of 60 submissions in the 2019 prize cycle.


This paper defends the Limited Use View of our duties to save. This view holds that a claim to be saved is a claim to make use of another person (and her resources) for one’s own sake. But we have only limited claims to make use of others and their resources. We are not entitled to make use of others when doing so is either unreasonably costly for them or conflicts with their duties to others. Hence, our claims to be saved are limited. By the same token, our duties to save are also limited. We need not save when doing so is unreasonably costly for us or conflicts with our duties to others, since others have no claim to make use of us when doing so is unreasonably costly for us or conflicts with our duties to others. One upshot of the Limited Use View is that it can sometimes be permissible to defensively harm for one’s own sake, or for the sake of special others, even though it would be impermissible to do so for the sake of a stranger.

2017 Winner

Fabian Wendt, Bielefeld University

Title: “Rescuing Public Justification from Public Reason Liberalism” (PDF)

Fabian Wendt, Bielefeld University has won the 2017 Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy for his paper “Rescuing Public Justification from Public Reason Liberalism”. There were 49 papers submitted for award consideration. Wendt is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bielefeld University, specializing in political philosophy. Starting in October, 2017, he will be a Research Associate at Chapman University.


Public reason liberals from John Rawls to Gerald Gaus uphold a principle of public justification as a core commitment of their theories. Critics of public reason liberalism have sometimes conceded that there is something compelling about the idea of public justification. But so far there have not been many attempts to elaborate and defend a ‘comprehensive’ liberalism that incorporates a principle of public justification. This article spells out how public justifiability could be integrated into a comprehensive liberalism and defends the claim that what is worthwhile about public justification can be extracted from public reason liberalism.

2016 Winner

Alex Zakaras

Title: "Complicity and Concern"

Alex Zakaras, Bielefeld University has won the 2016 Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy for his paper “Complicity and Concern”.

An honorable mention goes to Thomas Sinclair (University of Oxford), the runner-up for the prize. His paper was titled “The Power of Public Positions: Official Roles in Kantian Legitimacy.”


Abstract: This essay has three parts. First, I develop a causal account of individual complicity in collective injustice. Second, drawing on this account, I argue that citizens are often complicit in their government’s injustices, even when they do nothing more than obey the law, pay taxes, and lead ordinary, private lives. Though this claim has become relatively commonplace in the recent theoretical literature on global justice, it is seldom justified adequately. I maintain that citizens can be complicit despite the fact that their participation in collective injustice is typically coerced, and I consider the conditions under which state coercion might exonerate them. Third, I suggest that citizens’ complicity gives rise—especially in democratic polities—to an obligation to participate responsibly in politics.

Keith Hyams has won the inaugural Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy. Hyams is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Interdisciplinary Ethics in the department of Politics and International Studies at The University of Warwick, where he teaches political theory and works with the Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group.



When distributing an indivisible harm or benefit between multiple individuals, all of whom have an equal claim to avoid the harm or receive the benefit, it is commonly thought that one should hold a lottery in order to give each claimant an equal chance of winning. Moreover, it is often said that, by holding a lottery, one makes the resultant outcome inequality between those who receive the harm or benefit and those who do not less unfair than it would otherwise have been. The stated view – the ‘egalitarian mixed view’ – claims that the unfairness of a brute luck ex post distribution is a function of both the degree of inequality in the ex post distribution itself, and the degree of inequality in the ex ante distribution of chances from which it is derived. Versions of the view have been prominently endorsed by a number of authors, including Arneson, Broome, Diamond, Lang, Otsuka, Parfit, and Temkin. The appeal of the view is linked to its apparent promise to accommodate intuitions that have been thought to threaten views which link the fairness of an outcome either solely to the ex ante distribution or solely to the ex post distribution. I argue, to the contrary, that the egalitarian mixed view is mistaken. In particular, I argue that the distinction at the heart of the view – that between outcomes and changes to probabilities – is morally arbitrary at best and incoherent at worst. I consider possible responses to the charge and find them wanting. I note that the failure of the egalitarian mixed view has significant consequences for policy, including most importantly for how we should interpret the goal of fair equality of opportunity.

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