MARK BUTTON portrait
  • Associate Instructor, Political Science Department


  • Mark Button (2018). Bounded Rationality without Bounded Democracy: Nudges, Democratic Citizenship, and Pathways for Building Civic Capacity. Perspectives on Politics. Vol. 16, 1034-52. Published, 12/14/2018.
  • Mark Button & Ian Marsh (2018). Suicide and Social Justice: New Perspectives on the Politics of Suicide and Suicide Prevention. Routledge Press. Accepted, 06/28/2018.
  • Mark Button (2018). Suicidal Regimes: Public Policy and the Creation of Vulnerability to Suicide. Routledge Press. Accepted, 06/28/2018.
  • "Suicide and Social Justice: Toward a Political Account of Suicide," Political Research Quarterly Abstract: While prominent cases of suicide frequently generate collective feelings of loss and grief, a collective sense of political responsibility for the enduring conditions of suicidality remains missing today. The aim of this essay is to develop the broad outlines of a political approach to suicide as a question of social justice. In contrast to the dominant psychological and psychiatric approaches to the study and prevention of suicide, this essay advances the thesis that that suicide is a solitary “answer” to a set of collective questions about the conditions of a dignified human existence that we (i.e., most political societies) have not confronted in a meaningful way. I argue that a political account of suicide should ultimately point in the direction of a new right to life movement for the living, the policy and ethical aim of which is to secure the conditions of human dignity for all persons. To affirm life in a politically serious way requires that political societies confront the desire for death that these societies simultaneously breed and pretend not to notice. Published, 06/01/2016.
  • "Impartiality in Political Judgment: Deliberative not Philosophical," Political Studies (April 2016) Is impartiality possible or desirable within the conduct of political judgment? Most democratic theorists have answered this question with a resounding “no.” This essay provides an affirmative answer to this question based upon the empirical study of deliberative democracy within “mini-publics.” Through a reconstruction of the phenomenology of deliberative democracy within groups this essay offers an alternative conception of impartiality that can overcome many of the political and philosophical challenges that have been raised about this quality. “Deliberative impartiality” is a shared social orientation born from reflective civic collaborations within deliberative processes that prioritize free, equal, and inclusive communicative participation. This process-dependent form of mutually enacted deliberative impartiality differs from the individual, cognitive “standpoint” model of impartiality that still informs much of the theoretical literature, and it is for this same reason an intriguing and overlooked approach to impartiality that is worthy of empirical and theoretical consideration. Published, 04/04/2016.
  • Button, Mark E. (2016). Political Vices. Oxford Univ Pr. Published, 01/04/2016.
  • Political Vices (Oxford University Press, 2016) Historically speaking, our vices, like our virtues, have come in two basic forms: intellectual and moral. This book analyzes a set of specifically political vices that have not been given sufficient attention within political theory, but that nonetheless pose enduring challenges to the sustainability of free and equitable political relationships. Political vices like hubris, willful blindness, and recalcitrance are persistent dispositions of character and conduct that imperil the functioning of democratic institutions and the trust that a diverse citizenry has in the ability of those institutions to secure a just political order of equal moral standing, reciprocal freedom, and human dignity. Political vices create not just the basic conditions for systemic cruelty and injustice in human affairs but facilitate indifference to these conditions as well. Drawing on ancient Greek tragedy, social psychology, and moral epistemology, Political Vices gives new consideration to a list of “deadly vices” that contemporary political societies can neither ignore as a matter of personal “sin” nor publicly disregard as a matter of mere bad choice, and it provides a democratic account that outlines how citizens can best contend with our most troubling political vices without undermining core commitments to liberalism or pluralism. Published, 01/04/2016.
  • Button, M. E. (2014). Reading Emerson in Neoliberal Times: Contesting the Abandonment of Autonomy. SAGE Publications. Published, 2014.

Research Statement

My overall research agenda is animated by an interest in the ethical and political conditions of modern democratic citizenship. The question that I am asking in nearly all of my work is: What are the necessary preconditions for cultivating and sustaining a vibrant democratic political society/culture? What moral, political, and institutional features must be present in order to balance the normative commitment to democracy with the fact of incommensurable value pluralism, and to balance the claims of autonomy and individual liberty with the claims of civic obligation and virtue? In general, how should late-modern political societies navigate the complex matrix of multidimensional pluralism, liberalism, and democracy?

Research Keywords

  • Virtues and Vices
  • Suicide
  • Ethics
  • Deliberation
  • Political Theory
  • Democracy
  • American Political Thought
  • Religion and American Politics


  • Democracy in America: Past, Present, and Future, American History, Culture and Society Lecture Series, Salt Lake City Public Library, Utah Humanities Council, and KRCL radio. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/15/2018.
  • Rubber Meets the Road: Academics, Activists, and Policymakers having an Impact, The Great Polarization Conference, Department of Economics and Scholars Strategy Network, University of Utah, September 29, 2018 . Panel, Presented, 09/29/2018.
  • Civility in Politics: Contrasting Visions and Tolerance – Finding Common Ground from Various Perspectives, Hinckley Institute Politics. Panel, Presented, 04/16/2018.
  • Kindness in Politics? Challenges and Possibilities, Guest Lecture, Honors College Seminar, February 14, 2018. Presentation, Presented, 02/14/2018.
  • “Beyond the New Behaviorism: The Democratic Costs of ‘Nudges’ and the Legitimacy of Cultivating Civic Virtues,” Association for Political Theory, October 13-15, 2017, University of Michigan. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 10/14/2017.
  • “The S Word,” Documentary Film and Discussion with Director, Lisa Klein, University of Utah, September 21, 2017. Panel, Presented, 09/21/2017.
  • “Suicidal Regimes: Public Policy and the Creation of Vulnerability to Suicide,” Critical Suicidology Conference, Canterbury, June 29-July 1, 2017. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 06/29/2017.
  • “New Behaviorism, the Neuroliberal State, and the Future of Democratic Citizenship,” Association of Social and Political Philosophy Annual Meeting, Sheffield University, June 27-29, 2017. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 06/27/2017.
  • Speakers’ Corner Salt Lake City, Think Tank Art Series, “On Democracy.” March 11, 2017, Sorensen Unity Center, SLC. Panel, Presented, 03/11/2017.
  • Norms, Nudges, and Civic Virtue: The Institutional Context of Democratic Citizenship, Political Research Colloquium Series. Presentation, Presented, 11/04/2016.
  • Invited Panelist, “Liberty and 1776,” Liberty Fund Conference. Panel, Presented, 10/13/2016.
  • Virtue, Norms, and the Institutional Context of Liberal Citizenship, Manchester Center for Political Theory, Workshop. Conference Paper, Presented, 09/09/2016.

Research Groups

  • Daniel Patterson, Graduate Student. Political Science. 08/2015 - present.