Professor Ruth Levitas

Professor Ruth Levitas

Professor Ruth Levitas
Emeritus Professor

11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
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School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

SSRC Research Fellow, University of Sheffield, 1976-7; Lecturer in Sociology, Huddersfield Polytechnic, 1977-9; Lecturer at Bristol from 1979, Senior Lecturer from 1991, Reader from 1998, Professor from 2001. Head of Department of Sociology, 2006-2.  Leverhulme Research Fellow 2010 -2012


My two main areas of research are utopianism and poverty and social exclusion.

My  research interests in the first field cover the history of oppositional and utopian thought, the relationship between utopia and social theory, utopia as a method in the social sciences, utopia and music, and utopia, history, memory and place. These themes are reflected in The Concept of Utopia (1990/2010) and in my 2005 Inaugural Lecture 'The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society: or why sociologists and others should take Utopia seriously'. This work continues ‘Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust for 2010-2012.

I have also written widely on contemporary political ideologies and discourses and on New Labour, poverty, inequality and social inclusion and exclusion. (See The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour, 1998/2005). Recent work on social exclusion in collaboration with colleagues in the School for Policy Studies has focused on conceptualisation and measurement. It includes the JRF-funded 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (PSE) and the SEU-funded Multi-dimensional analysis of social exclusion (2007) which generated the Bristol Social Exclusion Matrix, or B-SEM. From 2010-2013 this work continues with ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain: the 2010 Survey’ funded by an ESRC Large Grant.

I am co-founder and immediate past Chair of the Utopian Studies Society – Europe. This is an interdisciplinary society that aims to co-ordinate and encourage the diverse work currently taking place on the subject of utopianism, and which holds an annual conference in Europe. For more information about USSE visit:

I am Vice-Chair of the William Morris Society, a charity founded in London in 1955. Its principal purpose is to raise awareness of life and work of William Morris and his associates. It has branches in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, and organises lectures, conferences, tours, museum visits, and social gatherings, as well as undertaking an increasing amount of educational work in schools. For more information, go to


I am on research leave until 2012. I supervise research students in the broad area of utopianism and critical social thought.

Key publications

  1. Levitas, R, 2010, ‘The Concept of Utopia’. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
  2. Pantazis, C, Gordon, D & Levitas, R, 2006, ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain: The Millennium Survey’. Policy Press
  3. Levitas, R, 2005, ‘The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour’. Palgrave Macmillan
  4. Levitas, R, 2010, ‘Towards a Utopian Ontology: Secularism and Post-secularism in Ernst Bloch and Roberto Unger’. Journal of Contemporary Thought, vol 31., pp. 151 - 169
  5. Levitas, R, 2010, ‘Why I am a socialist’. Soundings, vol 45., pp. 124 - 135
  6. Levitas, R, 2010, ‘In Eine Bess're Welt Entruckt: reflections on Music and Utopia’. Utopian Studies, vol 21 (2)., pp. 215 - 231

Latest publications

  1. Levitas, R, 2013, ‘Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society’. Palgrave Macmillan
  2. Levitas, R, 2013, ‘Singing summons the existence of the fountain’. in: Peter Thompson, Slavoj Zizek (eds) Ernst Bloch and the Privatisation of Hope. Duke University Press
  3. Levitas, R, 2012, ‘The Just's Umbrella: Austerity and the Big Society in Coalition policy and beyond.’. Critical Social Policy, vol 32 ., pp. 320 - 342
  4. Levitas, R, 2012, ‘Utopia Calling: eradicating child poverty in the UK and beyond’. in: Alberto Minujin, Shailen Nandy (eds) Global Child Poverty and Well-being: Measurement, concepts, policy and action. Policy Press, pp. 449 - 474

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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