Shekhar Chandra

Doctoral Candidate

I'm an interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and Environmental Philosophy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I am also associated with MIT's Resilient Communities Lab. 

My research investigates the political economy of public goods and environmental humanities. My dissertation examines institutional persistence and how systematic corruption and other forms of institutional inefficiencies in welfare programs affect poor and other socially marginalized groups. I develop a theory of misgovernance to explain the existence and persistence of systematic corruption in government bureaucracies and why anti-corruption reforms are challenging to implement. My ongoing book project, based on my dissertation, contributes micro-level foundations to the literature’s predominantly macro-level focus on corruption. My inquiry also examines how corruption undermines the social and economic institutional arrangements that are prerequisite to any analysis of distributive justice. 

In parallel to my dissertation research are two ongoing research collaborations on global justice and environmental justice. First, with researchers at Harvard’s Philosophy Department, in my work on global justice, I use social choice theory to build on the comparative political thought of Smith, Condorcet, and Wollstonecraft. An analytical approach to justice based on the social choice theory allows me to accommodate the limitations in existing social contract-based transcendental justice theories of Hobbes, Kant, and Rawls. These limitations arise from their a priori institutional demands. My conceptualization, in addition to contributing to global justice theory, suggests how to reframe global climate change, poverty alleviation, and human rights as global justice problems. This project addresses the larger debate on the kind of universal rights and liberties we wish to achieve at the global level. Second, at MIT’s Resilient Communities Lab, I study justice and environmental sovereignty in the Isle de Jean Charles Native community in Louisiana, currently experiencing climate change-forced migration. These community members are the U.S.’s first climate refugees. This research identifies injustices in the distribution of environmental goods and examines how the major theories of distributive justice fail to accommodate the unique cultures, values, and traditional ecological knowledge of Native community.