My research applies insights from diverse methodological sources to the study of fundamental issues and contemporary dilemmas in democratic theory. I have articulated and defended this practice-oriented, realist, interdisciplinary approach in some of my published work (see: one, two, three). In other articles, I put this method into practice, engaging biological perspectives on human nature, theories of cultural evolution, the cognitive science of motivated reasoning, and most extensively, empirical research on political behavior and institutions. My book manuscript integrates key findings from these traditions with advances in critical and poststructuralist thought, arguing that both perspectives are necessary to the develoment of a thoroughly realistic approach to democratic theory.

2018. “Beyond the Search for the Subject: An Anti-Essentialist Ontology for Liberal Democracy,” European Journal of Political Theory. (ungated)

2017. “What Makes a Political Theory Political? A Comment on Waldron” at Political Studies Review. (ungated)

2017. “When will a Darwinian Approach be Useful for the Study of Society?” in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. (ungated)

2016. “Between Critical and Normative Theory: Predictive Political Theory as a Deweyan Realism” in Political Research Quarterly. (ungated)

2015. “Can Deliberation Neutralise Power?” in European Journal of Political Theory. (ungated)

2014. “Legitimacy”, with Jack Knight, in Michael T. Gibbons, ed., Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Wiley. (ungated)

Recent Publications

The Dispersion of Power: Thinking Democratically in the 21st Century

This book confronts two central challenges facing contemporary democratic thought. First, leading conceptions of democracy as collective self-rule—whether via equal rights, citizen participation, or deliberative reason—are increasingly taking criticism for their distance from democratic practice. Second, the ideal of individual self-rule presumed by these accounts has been increasingly discredited by convergent developments in the humanities and behavioral sciences, casting doubt on the stability of the “self.”

In response to these challenges, I defend a different approach to democratic theory, which is oriented around the goal of dispersing power rather than equalizing any form of agency. The value of institutions such as liberal rights and majoritarian elections is not to realize collective self-rule through some form of political equality, I argue, but simply to make it harder for partial factions to capture the concentrated power of the state. More importantly, this account also presses the necessity of greater attention to the underlying distribution of power. Democratization, I claim, must include the dispersion of concrete power resources such as wealth and institutional authority—as well as efforts to counteract the asymmetrical effects of hegemonic cultural discourses and assumptions—as equally important companions to more familiar liberal and democratic procedures.

Manuscript awarded “Best Dissertation” in Political Science (AY 2016-2017), Duke University

Book Manuscript


"Is Democracy the Worst Form of Government?”, for Duke GradX symposium

"Madison meets Foucault", for Council on European Studies video

"Discourse as Freedom / Discourse as Power", for University Scholars Program interdisciplinary symposium

"Comments on Sources of the Self, by Charles Taylor," for workshop with the author