Christine Sypnowich

Christine Sypnowich

Queen’s National Scholar, Professor

Philosophy, Law

Arts and Science

People Directory Affiliation Category
  • BA, University of Toronto
  • MA, University of Toronto
  • DPhil, Oxford University
Specializations / Research Interests

Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Feminist Philosophy

Personal Website


Christine Sypnowich found her path to political philosophy when she encountered the work of C.B. Macpherson at the University of Toronto, where she completed her first two degrees before taking up a Commonwealth Scholarship to do a doctorate at Balliol College, Oxford. Sypnowich has held teaching appointments at Oxford University, Leeds University, Leiden University, University of California (San Diego), and York University, before coming to Queen’s. She has been awarded visiting fellowships at the Australian National University, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and All Souls College, Oxford. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. 

Christine Sypnowich’s early work was in the philosophy of law, particularly the possibility of socialist legality given the Marxist antipathy to law. This was the subject of her first monograph published with OUP, a revised version of her Oxford dissertation. More recently her research has centred on egalitarianism, making the case for a human flourishing approach to equality in Equality Renewed: Justice, Human Flourishing and the Egalitarian Ideal (Routledge 2018). She has published over 60 essays as journal articles or book chapters. Her work has been translated into Chinese, Russian and Spanish and abridged versions published in accessible formats such as textbooks and popular philosophy. She is currently completing a book on the philosophy of G.A. Cohen for Polity Press. Active in the city of Kingston as an advocate for transparency at City Hall as well as heritage conservation, Sypnowich is also working on a monograph on the political philosophy of cultural heritage.

  • Equality Renewed: Justice, Human Flourishing and the Egalitarian Ideal (Routledge, 2017; in paperback 2018)
  • The Concept of Socialist Law (Oxford University Press, 1990; translated into Chinese, 2017)
Monographs under contract
  • ‘G.A. Cohen: Liberty, Equality and Justice’, commissioned in 2017 by Polity Press, Cambridge, for ‘Key Contemporary Thinkers’ series.
  • ‘Why It’s OK to be a Socialist’, book project commissioned in 2020 by Routledge.
Edited Books / Collections
  • (ed. with Andrée-Anne Cormier) Family Values and Social Justice, Routledge, London, 2018.
  • (ed. with Robert Cardwell and Barb Carr) Barriefield: Two Centuries of Village Life, Quarry Press, Kingston, 2015.
  • The Egalitarian Conscience: Essays in Honour of G.A. Cohen, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006.
  • (ed. with David Bakhurst) The Social Self, Sage Publications, London, 1995.
Edited Journal Issues
  • (with Andrée-Anne Cormier) Critical Review of International Studies in Social and Political Philosophy special issue on Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift, Family Values (Princeton University Press, 2015), 2017. DOI: 10.1080/13698230.2017.1398447
Selected Journal Articles
  • 'The Demands of Equality’, Social Philosophy & Policy, 39, 2, Winter 2022 (forthcoming).
  • ‘What’s Wrong with Equality of Opportunity’, Philosophical Topics, Fall 2021 (forthcoming). 
  • ‘Monuments and Monsters: Education, cultural heritage and sites of conscience’, Journal of the Philosophy of Education, June 2021.
  • ‘Lessons from Dystopia: Critique, Hope and Political Education,’ paper commissioned for a special issue of the Journal of the Philosophy of Education, 52, 4, March 2019, pp. 660-676.
  • ‘Flourishing Children, Flourishing Adults: Families, Equality and the Neutralism-Perfectionism Debate,’ Critical Review of International Studies in Social and Political Philosophy 21, 3, November 2017, pp. 314-332.
  • ‘What’s Left in Egalitarianism? Marxism and the Limitations of Liberal Theories of Equality,’ Philosophy Compass, August 2017; DOI: 10.1111/phc3.12428, pp. 1-10.
  • ‘G.A. Cohen’s Socialism: Scientific but also Utopian,’ Socialist Studies, 8, 12, 2012, pp. 20-34.
  • ‘The Culture of Citizenship,’ Politics and Society, 28, 4, Autumn 2000, pp. 531-555.
  • ‘How to Live the Good Life: William Morris’s Aesthetic Conception of Equality,’ Queen’s Quarterly, 107, 3, 2000, pp. 391-411.
  • ‘Some Disquiet About Difference,’ Praxis International, 13, 2, August 1993, pp. 99-112.
  • ‘Justice, Community and the Antinomies of Feminist Theory,’ Political Theory 21, 3, August 1993, pp. 484-506.
  • ‘The Future of Socialist Legality: A Reply to Hunt,’ New Left Review, 193, May/June 1992, pp. 16-24.
  • ‘Fear of Death: Mortality and Modernity in Political Philosophy,’ Queen's Quarterly, 98, 3, 1991, pp. 618-36.
  • ‘The “Withering Away” of Law,’ Studies in Soviet Thought, 33, 4, May 1987, pp. 305-332.
  • ‘Consent, Self-Government and Obligation,’ Praxis International, 6, 3, October 1986, pp. 256-76.
Selected Chapters in Books
  • 'The Rule of Law and the Social Ethos’ for Michael Sevel, ed., Routledge Handbook of the Rule of Law, Routledge (forthcoming)
  • ‘Law and the Socialist Ideal’, in ed. P. O’Connell and Umut Ozsu, Elgar Handbook on Law and Marxism, Elgar Publishing (forthcoming).
  • ‘Liberalism, Marxism, Equality and Living Well,’ in Jan Kandiyali (ed.) Reassessing Marx’s Social and Political Philosophy: Freedom, Recognition and Human Flourishing, Routledge 2018, pp. 187-208.
  • ‘Conservatism, Perfectionism and Equality,’ in D. Bakhurst and P. Fairfield (eds), Education and Conversation: Exploring Oakeshott’s Legacy, Bloomsbury, London, 2016, pp. 77-94.
  • ‘Barriefield: A Living History,’ Barriefield: Two Centuries of Village Life (ed. with Robert Cardwell and Barb Carr), Quarry Press, Kingston, 2015, pp. 194-219.
  • ‘A New Approach to Equality,’ in Roberto Merrill and Daniel Weinstock (ed.) Political Neutrality: A Re-evaluation, Palgrave Macmillan, London 2014, pp. 178-209.
  • ‘The Left and Wrongs: Marxism, Law and Torts,’ in The Impact of Ideas on Legal Development, Vol. 7, Comparative Studies in the Development of the Law on Torts in Europe, edited by Michael Lobban and Julia Moses, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012, pp. 150-166.
  • ‘Begging,’ in The Egalitarian Conscience, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, pp. 177-194.
  • ‘Cosmopolitans, Cosmopolitanism and Human Flourishing,’ in G. Brock and H. Brighouse (eds.) The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 55-74.
  • ‘Egalitarianism Renewed,’ in R. Beiner and W. Norman (eds.), Canadian Political Philosophy at the Turn of the Century: Exemplary Essays, Oxford University Press 2000, pp. 118-30.
  • ‘Utopia and the Rule of Law,’ in D. Dyzenhaus (ed.), Re-crafting the Rule of Law: the Limits of Legal Order, Hart Publishing, Oxford, 1999, pp. 178-95.
Selected Reviews & Review Essays
  • Review of Matthew Kramer, Liberalism with Excellence, in Ethics, April 2019
  • 'Citizens of the World' (review essay of Brooke A. Ackerly, Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference, Daniele Archibugi, The Global Commonweath of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracies, David A. Crocker, Ethics of Global Development: Agency, Capability and Deliberative Democracy, and Dora Kostakopoulou, The Future Governance of Citizenship), in Political Theory, 2010.
  • 'Taking Britain’s Human Rights Act Seriously' (review essay of Conor Gearty, Principles of Human Rights Adjudication), in University of Toronto Law Journal, 2008.
  • 'Ruling or Overruled? The People, Rights and Democracy' (review essay of Will Waluchow, A Common Law Theory of Judicial Review: The Living Tree), in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 2007.
  • 'Equality: From Marxism to Liberalism (and Back Again)' (review essay of G.A. Cohen, If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich?), in Political Studies Review, 2003.
  • 'Race, Culture and the Egalitarian Conscience', (review essay of K.A. Appiah and A. Gutmann, Color Conscious), in Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 1999.
  • 'Social Justice and Legal Form' (review essay of D. Dyzenhaus, Hard Cases and Wicked Legal Systems), in Ratio Juris 1994.
  • 'Law as a Vehicle of Altruism' (review essay of Tom Campbell, The Left and Rights), in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 1985.
Encyclopedia Entries
  • ‘Steven Lukes’, Encyclopaedia of Political Thought, Wiley 2014.
  • ‘Socialist Law’, The Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopaedia, Garland, New York, 1999.
  • ‘Law and Ideology’, Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2005; revised 2010; 2014; 2019.
Work in Progress
  • ‘A Political Philosophy of Cultural Heritage’ (monograph)
  • Backyard Ethics: Defending the NIMBY’, The Philosopher’s Zone, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio programme, 1 July 2018; repeated 13 January 2019: broadcast on CBC Radio on 13 January 2019.
  • Christine Sypnowich’, Into the Coast internet interviews of philosophers, 2019
  • ‘Christine Sypnowich,’ interview with Christina Decarie, Profile Kingston, 2017.
  • ‘The Concept of Socialist Law – internet Interview with Christine Sypnowich by Jack Marsh,’ Rebel News, 2015
  • ‘Unreliable Friends’ letter in London Review of Books 16 March 2000.
  • Member of a 3-philosopher panel (with Will Kymlicka and Arthur Ripstein) on a 1-hour programme discussing ‘The Public Good’ with Lister Sinclair, Ideas, CBC Radio, 1996.

Also a number of interviews about my advocacy work in the city of Kingston on issues such as heritage conservation, school closures, democracy and transparency at City Hall, in the local press such as the Kingston Whig Standard, as well as Global TV News, CBC Radio (Ontario Morning, All in a Day).

  • Phil 153 The State and the Citizen
  • Phil 257 Ethics
  • Phil 271 Philosophy and Literature
  • Phil 318 Philosophy of Law

Also senior undergraduate and graduate seminars in Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law, on such subjects as equality, human flourishing, socialism, G.A. Cohen’s philosophy, the rule of law. 

I am currently supervising 2 PhD students, 3 MA students.