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Alexander Livingston

Assistant Professor

White Hall, Room 215

Educational Background

University of Toronto, Ph.D., 2010



Alexander Livingston is a political theorist specializing in the areas of American political thought, democratic theory, and political ethics. Before coming to Cornell, he was a Social Science and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University (2011-2013). His recent book, Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), examines the writings of American philosopher and psychologist William James in the context of his involvement in the movement against U.S. imperialism to recover pragmatism's overlooked contributions to American political thought. His current research project focuses on the ethics and politics of nonviolence in postwar American social movements, and their lessons for contemporary debates on civil disobedience and democratic citizenship. 

His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as American Political Science ReviewPolitical Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, Theory & EventHumanity, Contemporary Pragmatism, and Philosophy and Rhetoric, as well as edited volumes. Livingston teaches courses in the areas of the history of political thought, American political thought and philosophy, contemporary democratic theory, activism and disobedience, and critical theory. 


  • American Studies Program
  • Government

Graduate Fields

  • Government


  • History of Political Thought
  • American Political Thought
  • Democratic Theory
  • Protests and Social Movements
  • Political Ethics
  • Religion and Politics




  • Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016)

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • "Fidelity to Truth: Gandhi and the Genealogy of Civil Disobedience," Political Theory (forthcoming)
  • “Between Means and Ends: Reconstructing Coercion in Dewey’s Democratic Theory,” American Political Science Review 111, no. 3 (2017): 522-534
  • “The Cost of Liberty: Sacrifice and Survival in Du Bois’s John Brown,” in A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois, ed. Nick Bromell (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, forthcoming)
  • "William E. Connolly," Handbuch der radikalen Demokratietheorien, eds. Dagmar Comtesse, Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Franzizska Martinsen, Martin Nonhoff (Berlin: Suhrkamp, forthcoming) 
  • “Pragmatism, Practice and the Politics of Critique,” Contemporary Pragmatism 14, no. 2 (2017): 212-220
  • “Moralism and Its Discontents,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 7, no. 3 (2016): 499-522 
  • “Stuttering Conviction: Commitment and Hesitation in James’s Oration to Robert Gould Shaw,” Contemporary Political Theory 12, no. 4 (2013): 255-276
  • “Excited Subjects: William James and the Politics of Radical Empiricism,” Theory & Event 15, no. 4 (2012)
  • “Avoiding Deliberative Democracy? Micropolitics, Manipulation, and the Public Sphere,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 45, no. 3 (2012): 269-294
  • “From Honor to Dignity and Back Again,” Political Theory 35, no. 4 (2007): 494-501. [Coauthored with Leah Soroko]