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Alexander Livingston

Associate Professor

Alexander Livingston

White Hall, Room 215

Educational Background

University of Toronto, Ph.D., 2010



Alexander Livingston is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Government. His research examines protest, social movements, and religion and politics with an area focus on American political thought. He teaches courses on civil disobedience, theories of democracy, political violence and nonviolence, contemporary political theory, and the history of political thought. 

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 crises of authority and sovereignty driving the expansion of American global power. His current book project, Inventing Civil Disobedience, looks at the theory and practice of civil disobedience in the long civil rights movement, and their afterlives in contemporary political culture. 

Livingston's research has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including the American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, and Contemporary Political Theory, as well as numerous edited volumes. His public writing has appeared in Jacobin Magazine and Boston Review.

Before coming to Cornell, he was a Social Science and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.


  • American Studies Program
  • Government
  • Society for the Humanities

Graduate Fields

  • Government


  • American and African-American Political Thought
  • Democratic Theory
  • Civil Disobedience
  • Social Movements
  • Religion and Politics


Fall 2020



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

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • "Nonviolence and the Coercive Turn," in The Cambridge Companion to Civil Disobedience, ed. William E. Scheuerman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)
  • "Thinking with the Streets: Civil Disobedience between Theory and Practice," Contemporary Political Theory (forthcoming)
  • "Tough Love: The Political Theology of Civil Disobedience," Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming)
  • "Power for the Powerless: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Late Theory of Civil Disboedience," Journal of Politics 82, no. 2 (2020): 700-713
  • "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