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Lucy Cane

Program Area(s):  American Politics; Political Theory

Dissertation Title:

Sheldon Wolin and Democracy: Seeing Through Loss

Dissertation Committee:  Mary Dietz (Chair), James Farr, George Shulman (NYU), Joan Tronto (Minnesota)

Research Interests: Contemporary Democratic Theory; Sheldon Wolin; Hannah Arendt; Critical Pedagogy, Feminist Theory

Dissertation Description:

My dissertation examines the political thought of Sheldon Wolin. In the interest of promoting grassroots political participation, Wolin defends local American traditions and maintains skepticism towards both large-scale institutions and postmodern politics. I argue that this approach to democracy yields important insights into recent crises of liberalism by attending to narratives of loss that have largely been harnessed by right-wing populism. However, I also interrogate the troubling aspects of Wolin’s approach through engagements with critical race theory and European theorists of radical democracy such as Chantal Mouffe and Jacques Rancière. I show that he is ultimately pressed to complicate his vision of American exceptionalism and develop a more multifaceted conception of democracy. I also tie the problematic aspects of Wolin’s work to his understanding of political theory itself, drawing on critical pedagogy to critique his restrictive understanding of intellectual tradition.


I teach seminar courses at Stateville Correctional Center with The Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project (P-NAP).


  • "Hannah Arendt on the Principles of Political Action” in European Journal of Political Theory 14:1, January 2015.
  • “Arendt on Principles, the Right to Have Rights, and Democracy: Response to Näsström” in Political Theory 43:2, April 2015.
  • "Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision" in The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory, Jacob Levy ed., October 2016.
  • With Mary Dietz, “Feminist Political Thought” Oxford Bibliographies Online, Oxford University Press, October 2017.
  • “Arendt and Montesquieu” in Peter Gratton and Yasemin Sari (eds.) The Bloomsbury Companion to Hannah Arendt London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming in 2018.

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