Two academics from The University of Manchester, Professor Hillel Steiner and Professor David Hulme, have received Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowships- one of the most prestigious research awards in the UK. More than 200 academics apply for the award each year, and only around 25 are successful. To have two such awards bestowed upon academics from the University in a single year is a great achievement.
The Trust was established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, and makes awards for the support of research and education. The Major Research Fellowships enable well-established researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences to devote themselves to a single project of outstanding originality and significance, which is to be completed within two to three years.
Effectively the Trust supports a full-time academic replacement to allow the successful candidates to carry out their research.
The Just Price- Professor Hillel Steiner
Professor Steiner's research project, 'The Just Price' will allow him to study the notion of the just price: an idea which reached its fullest theoretical articulation in the Middle Ages, and which - despite having been long since discredited - continues to permeate much social and political thinking on a global scale.
The philosophical thought that goods and services have a natural price which is fair and that charging a higher price is unjust, is at the heart of Professor Steiner's research. He commented: "There have long been several theories behind what makes a price fair: in fact this idea can be traced back to at least the Bible and classical Greek philosophy. My research aims to look at the conceptual structure of these theories and to see how they're connected to broader accounts of distributive justice.
"Archaic as the idea of just price is considered to be, something like it seems to underly much of what's currently written about unjust exploitation and unfair trade".
The wider implications of Professor Steiner's research are intended to cast light on the relationship between the social sciences and philosophical ethics. Social science tends to look for law-like generalisations that can explain and, perhaps, predict our choices, whereas ethics seems to presuppose that we can make other choices than the ones we do make.
This research will investigate how what was once thought to be a domain of ethical choice – price determination – eventually came to be viewed as one governed by scientific laws.
Professor Steiner's research will have implications for the public at large inasmuch as it connects with issues surrounding markets, globalisation and free and fair trade. He remarked: "It is possible to assess government policies according to principles of justice: in order to determine whether one policy package is fairer than another, and whether some forms of regulating market exchange produce more just distributions of income than others."
Contemporary History of Global Poverty and Poverty Reduction: Compassion and Self Interest- Professor David Hulme
Professor David Hulme, Director of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at the University has been successful in securing a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to write a book synthesising what's happening on a global level about poverty reduction.
The book will be based on research undertaken during the last 10 years both within institutions in the UK and abroad and in Africa and Asia. It will provide an historical analysis of the processes that have led to poverty being socially constituted as a global problem, which requires actors, targets, procedures and finances for its reduction.
Professor Hulme hopes to examine why compassion and self interest are shaping global poverty reduction, with the emphasis on worldwide governments and multi-lateral institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the World Bank.
Professor Hulme commented; "In the last few years there has been growing interest in viewing poverty as 'global poverty' in terms of its measurement, causes and policies that will reduce it. By drawing on existing literature and available data the research will provide a holistic and multidisciplinary analysis of the present day 'assault on poverty'.
"By tracing the evolution of key aspects of contemporary poverty thinking and policy the research will generate new insights into how the present understanding of poverty has been reached, and of the implications for poverty reduction."
The topics covered will include poverty measurement, the roles of growth and human development and the role of celebrity in poverty reduction, in which figures such as Bono and Bob Geldof have been key in global mobilisations regarding poverty.
Professor Hulme hopes to complete his research over the next three years.
Both Professor Hillel Steiner and Professor David Hulme are available for interview.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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