Dr. Uğur Aytaç

Ethiek Instituut

What is political power, how can we assess its legitimacy in different institutional domains, and how should we address any legitimacy deficits arising from unaccountable powers? These fundamental questions have driven my research, from my PhD in Amsterdam to the projects I undertake as an Assistant Professor in Utrecht. I investigate how varying conceptualizations of power and domination should shape our normative judgments about the legitimacy of socio-political arrangements, including digital platforms, economic institutions, and states. My research has appeared or is forthcoming in peer-reviewed journals such as the American Political Science Review, Political Theory, The Journal of PoliticsPolitical Studies, Constellations, and the Journal of Social Philosophy.

My first line of research is on the theories of political legitimacy. I argue that the normative standards of political legitimacy should shift attention to broader social relations beyond state power, including the power structures of patriarchy and capitalism. This is because such power structures ultimately shape and transform the circumstances under which state institutions operate. I utilize various normative methods to study these issues, e.g., ideology critique. I also research how social actors can resist illegitimate power structures and investigate on what grounds different tools of resistance can be justified.

My second line of research analyzes how the powers of social media companies transform the digital public sphere and what this means for the democratic legitimacy of contemporary political orders. Focusing on content moderation practices and algorithmic curation of online speech, I research whether the powers of social media companies can be compatible with democratic values such as political equality and free speech. Further, I explore the potential and limitations of different governance schemes that can democratize Big Tech corporations' powers over the digital public sphere.

I take academic citizenship seriously, aiming to help cultivate a community among philosophers in the Netherlands. I am co-coordinator of the political philosophy study group at the Dutch Research School of Philosophy. In this capacity, I co-organize regular workshops where participants receive feedback on their research.

I am also enthusiastic about reaching lay audiences. In 2023, I gave a public lecture on democracy and social media on the Utrecht Day of Philosophy. Further, I hosted a 5-episode podcast series on political philosophy in 2021-2022 (in Turkish).