Intellectual Autobiography, Research, and Teaching


At Lafayette, I teach Introduction to Political Theory,  Early American Political Thought, Recent American Political Thought, and African American Political Thought.  I also teach a seminar on “Political Theory through Literature.”

I’ve written two books: The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Early America, 1630-1789 (Penn State, 1991) and Democratic Temperament: the Legacy of William James (University of Kansas, 1997). I am revising a book length manuscript on “”The Politics of Fashion.”  I’ve published two articles and presented many conference papers on the subject. Chapter topics include “Beauty and Power,” “Inequality and Common Bonds,” “The Politics of Black Hair,” “Fashion and Political Action,” and “Fashion and Tradition.”

The foundational texts for my thinking about political theory include Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”; Hannah Arendt, “The Human Condition”; Sheldon S. Wolin, “Politics and Vision,” and John H. Schaar, “Legitimacy in the Modern State.”

I grew up in Chicago and Skokie, Illinois, where my parents were political activists so I was able to experienced the politics of the sixties up close. After attending Niles North High School and the Francis W. Parker in Chicago. I discovered political theory in1973 when I entered John H. Schaar’s class in American Political Thought at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  I also studied with the philosopher Maurice Natanson who taught courses in Existentialism and Phenomenology. When I graduated in 1976 I became a community organizer in Houston, Texas, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Little Rock. In 1978 I entered Princeton’s political philosophy program to study with Sheldon S. Wolin, receiving a Ph.D. in 1984.  I also audited courses with Wilson Carey McWilliams at Rutgers, and finished my dissertation while living in Berkeley, where at the University of California I audited courses with the political theorists Michael Rogin, Hanna Pitkin, Norman Jacobson, and the philosopher Charles Taylor. In 1984 I became a visiting professor first at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and then at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and joined the Lafayette faculty in 1986.

I believe that all people should have an education in the Liberal Arts.

May 22, 2018

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