Alexander Livingston

Associate Professor


Alexander Livingston is Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Interim Director of the Society for the Humanities. His primary areas of research are democratic theory, social movements, religion and politics, and the history of twentieth-century political thought. His areas of specialization include American and African American political thought. 

Livingston has published two books, most recently an edited volume on the dialogical approach to political theory developed by the Canadian political theorist James Tully and its contributions to the study of democracy, citizenship, and decolonization, James Tully: To Think and Act Differently (Routledge, 2022). His first book, Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (Oxford University Press, 2016), examines pragmatist philosopher William James’s critique of knowledge and authority in the context of struggles against American overseas imperialism at the turn of the twentieth century.

His current research program examines the history of nonviolence as strategy of contention, a practice of world-making, and a language of political thought. Projects in contribution to this larger program include a book manuscript on the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr. and his unexamined contributions as a theorist of power, as well as a new co-edited volume of the political writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi.

In addition to these monographs, Livingston's  research has appeared in American Political Science ReviewPolitical TheoryJournal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, and Contemporary Political Theory, as well as numerous edited volumes including The Research Handbook on LiberalismThe Cambridge Companion to Civil Disobedience, Radikale Demokratietheorie: Ein Handbuch and A Political Companion to W.E.B. Du Bois. 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 in the Department of Political Science 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:

  • "Decarcerating Civil Disobedience: Punishment, Policing, and the Problem of Innocence," in Research Handbook on Liberalism, ed. Duncan Ivison (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing,  2024), pp. 254-274
  • "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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