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Lepenies, Robert

Research Scientist

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany



Max Weber alumnus

Department of Law

Cohort(s): 2013/2014, 2014/2015

Ph.D. Institution

Hertie School of Governance Berlin, Germany


He held two Max Weber Fellowships in the Law Department at the European University Institute from 2013-15.
His areas of specialization are the philosophy of economics, the ethics of nudging, and normative questions related to poverty. He is recipient of the 2015 WIWA Young Scholar Award for Pluralism in Economics, the 2015 A.SK Post-Doctoral Award for research contributing to social and political reform, and the 2016 Jürgen Mulert Award on Mutual Understanding. He was elected to the Global Young Academy in 2016.
At the EUI, he worked on articles building on his doctoral thesis: "Losers in Trade: Economics and Normative Justifications", which investigates normative claims made by international economists when free trade and liberalization policies are advocated. He argued that dominant justifications for free trade policies rely on an array of implicit and explicit normative premises that are usually found in the domain of political philosophy. He shows how a "neoclassical vision" developed through the intellectual history of free trade advocacy finds its most convincing counter-vision in the work of John Rawls.
At the EUI, he also started to work on philosophical questions of behavioral governance. He is especially interested in the legitimacy of using nudges as a political instrument and in using behavioral applications in contexts of poverty.
Robert was the Max Weber post-doctoral representative for 2013-14 and coordinated the reading group on Economics and Philosophy at the EUI. Together with Juliana Bidadanure, he organized the "Future of Basic Income Research" conference at the EUI in 2015 for which they won funding from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (YSI).

He also co-organized the "Empathy & Competition: A 21st Century View on Adam Smith" Conference in 2014.
Robert is the project manager of Global Colleagues, a global partnership program by Academics Stand Against Poverty that brings together poverty researchers from the Global North and the Global South in on-to-one matches. He was recently awarded the Jürgen Mulert Award on Mutual Understanding for founding the project.Robert holds a PhD in Political Science from the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin (BTS), an MSc in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, The Queen’s College.He was a Fulbright-Schuman Fellow of the Global Justice Programme at Yale University from 2012-13.
He was recently awarded the Inaugural WIWA Young Scholar Award for Pluralism in Economics for his research. In 2016, he was elected to the Global Young Academy for five years.
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