My research interests lie at the intersection of democratic theory and intellectual history, with a particular focus on the formation of the social science disciplines in the twentieth century. My work has two interrelated aims: First, I seek to understand why current discussions are so thoroughly dominated by an undifferentiated view of “elites” – a lack of differentiation that did not characterize other historical moments similarly marked by rampant plutocracy. In order to do so, I investigate the intellectual sources of the populist versus elitist binary that permeates our political discourse. Second, through an analysis of key figures and concepts in political economy, the history of political thought, and the history of capitalism, I attempt to identify different types of elite groups and assess their proper functions within capitalist institutions.
Below are some of my research projects:
Elites and Democratic Theory: The Italian School, American Political Science, and the Problem of Plutocracy
Twentieth century political science fetishized a product of its own invention: “the elite theory of democracy.” I contend that American political science’s understanding of “democratic elitism” is founded on a fundamental misreading of the Italian “Elite” School and Joseph Schumpeter’s political thought. The project thus historicizes the early phases of the interpretive tradition known as democratic elitism, represented by the following authors: 1) Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, Robert Michels; 2) Joseph Schumpeter; and 3) Seymour Martin Lipset, Robert Dahl, Peter Bachrach, Carol Pateman, and Adam Przeworksi. I not only track how the Italian School’s concerns over the threat of plutocracy were suppressed, and its aspirations for political transparency were discounted, but I also trace the shift, over time, in the literary dispositions that undergird what we now call “elite,” “minimal” or “realist” theories of democracy. In contrast to the Italians’ and Schumpeter’s pessimism, American political science infused optimism into similar understandings of representative government with pernicious consequences for democratic theory and popular conceptions of liberal democracy. The project thus re-examines where, exactly, the twentieth century conception of democratic elitism came from, and why elite theories of democracy became central to different corners of American political science.
Schumpeterianism, Neoliberalism and the Market
(second book project)
My second book project analyzes the political and economic features of capitalist development through Joseph Schumpeter’s writings and their reception. This history traces the evolution of the term “Schumpeterian,” recounting how different uses of the adjective were deployed in economics and political science in the past century. The project prompts a reconsideration of whether “neoliberal,” “Schumpeterian” views of entrepreneurship, monopoly capitalism, and creative destruction ought to be attributed to him. Quite simply, I contend that “Schumpeterianism” does not accurately reflect what Schumpeter had to say about any of these phenomena. What Schumpeter did have to say, however, may open different avenues for negotiating government intervention into the market in the present historical moment.
The Uomini da Bene vs. the Uomini Savi: Aristocratic Republicanism in Guicciardini’s Political Thought
This project develops work that I have written as I translated and edited Francesco Guicciardini’s lesser known political texts. Specifically, I trace Guicciardini’s use of the uomini da bene(good men) and the uomini savi(wise men) in the Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenzevis-à-vis previous humanist uses of the terms. The distinction, I argue, holds importance for the Cambridge School’s reading of Guicciardini’s place in the Atlantic Republican Tradition vis-à-vis Machiavelli.