I am a political and historical sociologist, interested in how we conceptualise and theorise power, its role in society, and associated long-term patterns of historical and social change. This connects to an interest in the nature of liberal society, its emergence and fate. My work can be described as historically informed sociological theory. Much of my work is on nationalism and national identity, with particular interest in liberal or civic forms of nationalism, as in Scotland. I have done ethnographically based empirical research on devolution politics in Scotland, and the role of national identities in a changing Scottish financial sector. My most recent book with Manchester University Press (July 2017) is based on ethnographic data collected in a major Scottish bank prior to the 2008 crisis, revisiting that data from a post-crisis perspective. In addition to the above, I have a range of research interests including classical social theory and Scottish Enlightenment thought (especially David Hume and Adam Smith).
My current research focus is twofold:
(1) On the legal, institutional and organisational transformations of 'competition' in the formation of liberal capitalist societies since the 18th century. This has implications for how we understand the pathologies and deformations of competition in society today.
(2) On the relationship between the rise of the modern nation state and reconfigurations of ideas of agency in the modern period.
Connected to these I am also interested in the history of the idea of the 'balance/separation of powers', and the viability of the concept of 'evolution' for understanding social change.