G Madison Powers


Francis J. McNamara Jr. Chair and Senior Research Scholar
Kennedy Institute of Ethics; Professor, Philosophy Department


Department of Philosophy
General profile






Dr. Powers is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. From 2000 to 2009, he served as Director of the Kennedy Institute. He is a Fellow of the Hastings Center, and since 2016 he has held the Francis J. McNamara, Jr. Chair at Georgetown University.

Dr. Powers has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on a variety of topics in normative and practical philosophy, including a long-standing interest in questions of justice in public health and social policy. Drs. Powers and Ruth Faden are co-authors of a recent book, Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Care Policy (NY: Oxford University Press, 2006; revised edition, 2008).

Dr. Powers was a recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Investigator Award, and for many years he also served as a member and as chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Program. In addition, he has participated in many other private and governmental advisory bodies including a four-year term as a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) for the National Institutes of Health.

Current Research and Work in Progress:

1. With Co-author, Ruth Faden, Dr. Powers is working on a new book refining and expanding the arguments from our 2006 book, Social Justice: the Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy. The book presents an account of the most basic, morally most urgent forms of structural injustice, both domestically and globally. The overall theory bridges discussions of structural unfairness from the social justice literature and largely parallel debates among human rights theorists. The title is: Structural Injustice: Deprivation, Disadvantage, and Domination.

2. Beyond the basic theoretical work contained in the new book, his primary research focus is on a set specific issues of justice pertaining to climate change, the global production of food, and the management of water resources. The overall aim is to show how the production, distribution, and regulation of vital, and increasingly scarce resources affect paths to global development, poverty alleviation, and the capacity of individuals and nations to secure the basic requirements for decent human lives and to preserve sustainable human habitats. This aspect of research involves a series of papers and public lectures, an encyclopedic, regularly updated website, and perhaps a book intended for a broader audience.

The website http://www.FEWResources.org/ contains over 500 entries organized within 36 categories, covering a variety of issues arising out of the global economic and political arrangements pertaining to food, energy, and water.

Before his professional career as a philosopher he was a lawyer working primarily in health and environmental law.


  • D. Phil. (1989) University College, Oxford, Philosophy
  • M.A. (1982) Vanderbilt University, Philosophy
  • JD (1974) University of Tennessee,
  • B.A. (1972) Vanderbilt University, History/Political Science