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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 in the Department of Government. His research examines race, religion, and dissent with a 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 protest politics. 

Livingston's work has appeared in American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Journal of Politics, Contemporary Political Theory, Theory & Event, Res Publica, Humanity, William James Studies, Contemporary Pragmatism, and Philosophy and Rhetoric, as well as numerous edited volumes including most recently Radical Democratic Theory: A Handbook.

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




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

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • "Power for the Powerless: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Late Theory of Civil Disboedience," Journal of Politics (forthcoming)
  • "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
  • “Moralism and Its Discontents,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 7, no. 3 (2016): 499-522