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Alexander Livingston

Assistant Professor

Alexander Livingston

White Hall, Room 215

Educational Background

University of Toronto, Ph.D., 2010



Alexander Livingston is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government. His research focuses on topics in American political thought, democratic theory, and political ethics. His first book, Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (Oxford University Press, 2016), examines William James’s role in debates about U.S. imperialism at the turn of the century to show how pragmatism developed as a political response to the crises of authority and sovereignty driving the expansion of American power. He is currently writing a book on the genealogy of civil disobedience and the politics of nonviolence in the long civil rights movement.  

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 American political thought and philosophy, activism and disobedience, theories of nonviolence, contemporary critical theory, and the history of political thought. Before coming to Cornell, he was a Social Science and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University (2011-2013). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.


  • American Studies Program
  • Government
  • Society for the Humanities

Graduate Fields

  • Government


  • American Political Thought
  • Democratic Theory
  • Protests and Social Movements
  • Nonviolence
  • Political Ethics
  • Religion and Politics
  • Pragmatism




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

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • "Climate Strike? Fragility and Militancy in the Anthropocene," Contemporary Political Theory (forthcoming)
  • "William E. Connolly," in Radikale Demokratietheorie: Ein Handbuch, eds. Dagmar Comtesse, Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Franzizska Martinsen, Martin Nonhoff (Berlin: Suhrkamp, forthcoming) 
  • "In Search of a Moral Equivalent of War," William James Studies 14, no. 1 (2018): 85-91
  • "Fidelity to Truth: Gandhi and the Genealogy of Civil Disobedience," Political Theory 46, no. 4 (2018): 511-536
  • “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, 2018), pp. 207-240
  • “Between Means and Ends: Reconstructing Coercion in Dewey’s Democratic Theory,” American Political Science Review 111, no. 3 (2017): 522-534
  • “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]