Keywords: Political Theory; Democratic Theory; American Politics; Democratic Realism; Political Realism; Thomas Hobbes; Political Science Pedagogy
In light of growing economic inequality, declining trust in political institutions, and ongoing discussions about democratic deficits, what is the political status of ordinary (i.e., non-wealthy) citizens? To what extent are they able to exercise power over sovereign decision-making? How should persistent democratic shortcomings affect their understanding of citizenship? How should it influence the way they think about the state, their fellow citizens, or themselves? In short, where does the demos fit into contemporary democratic theory?
Best understood within the broader tradition of democratic realism (e.g., Schumpeter, Schattschneider, Green, etc.) Caleb's research agenda focuses on pursuing a better understanding of democratic political subjectivity within the context of the United States and other contemporary, western, liberal democracies. Methodologically, he engages in exegetical readings of classic and contemporary works of political philosophy and theory, putting these texts into conversation with relevant, empirically-driven research on political behavior and institutions with the ultimate goal of elaborating the conditions, considerations, and challenges relevant to the lived experience of democratic citizenship.
Winner of the 2017 Hobbes Studies essay competition, Caleb's forthcoming paper on Hobbesian political subjectivity further explores the nature of liberal-democratic citizenship by drawing upon his oft-ignored figure of ‘the servant’. Entitled “A State of Lesser Hope,” it provides the only known exhaustive account of Hobbesian servitude, further arguing that Hobbes’s servant gives us a unique insight into the experience of mass democratic citizenship. The paper is due out in the fall of 2018.
Seeking to impress the lessons of democratic realism upon the closely-related discourse of political realism, “Realism and political inequality” argues that political realists have not gone far enough to reframe the question of legitimacy, noting the ways in which past accounts have failed to consider the more persistent, practical consequences of political inequality. Caleb emphasizes that political realists should do more to consider the relative political capabilities of their intended audience, for whom the question of legitimacy may ultimately have little significance. The paper will be published in Constellations in the fall of 2018 and is currently available online.
Caleb's dissertation, “Living under Post-Democracy: Political Subjectivity in Fleetingly Democratic Times” develops a phenomenological account of democratic political subjectivity that takes into consideration the greater consequences of political inequality for the citizen’s approach to both political participation and the practice of political philosophy. In other words, it offers a robust and rigorous model of self-reflective citizenship informed by democratic realism. Specifically, Caleb argues that both political participation and political philosophy can serve a therapeutic purpose, allowing self-understood democratic citizens to work through the enduring contradictions and disappointments characteristic of political life. Currently, he is editing the dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled On Post-Democracy, which he plans to send out to academic presses before the end of 2018.
Political Science Pedagogy
In addition to his work in political theory, Caleb is also actively engaged in improving the teaching of political science. Co-authored with Margarita Safronova (UC Santa Barbara) and Colin Kuehl (Northern Illinois University), “Discussing Programmatic Learning Outcomes in the Classroom” demonstrates a statistically-significant relationship between explicitly emphasizing PLOs to students and students’ perception of a course’s overall value. After presenting the paper at the 2017 APSA meeting in San Francisco and 2017 APSA TLC meeting in Long Beach, it is now forthcoming from the Journal of Political Science Education.