Alexander Livingston

Associate Professor


Alexander Livingston is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Government. His research interests include democratic theory, social movements, religion and politics, and the history of twentieth-century political thought. He teaches courses on civil disobedience, theories of democracy, the politics of nonviolence, contemporary political theory, and American political thought. 

He is the author of Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (Oxford University Press, 2016) and editor of James Tully: To Think and Act Differently (Routledge, 2022). His current research projects include a book on the theory and history of civil disobedience, as well as a series of essays on the ethics and politics of self-defense in contemporary protest repertoires, and a collaborative project on archival methodologies in political theory.

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.

Research Focus

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



  • James Tully: To Think and Act Differently (London: Routledge, 2022)

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

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • "In Extremis: The Wildness of William James," Contemporary Pragmatism 19, no. 1 (2022): 23-34
  • "Nonviolence and the Coercive Turn," in The Cambridge Companion to Civil Disobedience, ed. William E. Scheuerman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 254-279
  • "Thinking with the Streets: Civil Disobedience between Theory and Practice," Contemporary Political Theory 19, no. 3 (2020): 539-544
  • "Tough Love: The Political Theology of Civil Disobedience," Perspectives on Politics 18, no. 3 (2020): 851-866
  • "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

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