Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

From climate change to nuclear war to the rise of demagogic populists, our world is shaped by doomsday expectations.  In this path-breaking book, Alison McQueen shows why three of history's greatest political realists feared apocalyptic politics.  Niccolò Machiavelli in the midst of Italy's vicious power struggles, Thomas Hobbes during England's bloody civil war, and Hans Morgenthau at the dawn of the thermonuclear age all saw the temptation to prophesy the end of days. Each engaged in subtle and surprising strategies to oppose apocalypticism, from using its own rhetoric to neutralize its worst effects to insisting on a clear-eyed, tragic acceptance of the human condition.  Scholarly yet accessible, this book is at once an ambitious contribution to the history of political thought and a work that speaks to our times.

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Advance Praise

'This is an excellent addition to the burgeoning literature on political realism. Straddling political theory and International Relations (IR) in a fresh and creative fashion, McQueen offers us a strikingly original portrait of realist responses to apocalypse. Moving seamlessly from Machiavelli to Hobbes to Morgenthau, from early modern debates about the nature of God to modern fears of nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change, she tells a fascinating story that raises profound questions about the dangers and the possibilities of political theology. Combining acute textual interpretation, felicitous historical contextualisation, and subtle normative analysis, Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times makes a major contribution to political theory and International Relations.'   Duncan Bell - University of Cambridge

‘Richard Hofstadter famously coined the term ‘the paranoid style' to describe a certain histrionic strand within American politics. In Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times, McQueen audaciously outdoes Hofstadter by demonstrating the more widely pervasive ‘apocalyptic' style characteristic not only of American political theorizing and practice but also of modern political thought more generally. McQueen shows how and explains why the rhetoric of doomsday, visions of tribulation and redemption, and 'end times' ideologies not only persist but actually pervade the supposedly secular age. She meticulously and ingeniously traces the apocalyptic quality of the contexts in which political authors/actors such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Morgenthau wrote, and how this apocalypticism infiltrated their writings. The book is certain to make an enormous impact in the fields of political thought, intellectual history, and American studies, especially given the now fashionable ‘theological' turn in political theory and the dramatic surge in apocalyptic politics throughout the world.'   John P. McCormick - University of Chicago

‘Alison McQueen uses the common, apocalyptic context of their thinking to give us a novel perspective on the unlikely trio of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Morgenthau. The perspective unifies and illuminates, revealing aspects of their writings, and connections between their concerns, that are unseen in other treatments.'   Philip Pettit - Princeton University and Australian National University

‘The most important achievement of Alison McQueen's fascinating new book is that she launches an overdue conversation between and among different versions of ‘realism', past and present. Shedding fresh light on Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hans Morgenthau, and other ‘realists', McQueen ignores the usual disciplinary boundaries between and among competing realist brands. Hers is an indispensable contribution not only to a growing body of realist scholarship but to political science and philosophy.'   William E. Scheuerman - Indiana University



Robin Douglass, Perspectives on Politics 16, no. 4 (2018).

Steven Lane, Reading Religion/American Academy of Religion (June 23, 2018).

Vassilis Paipais, Contemporary Political Theory (June 4, 2018) [Online First].

Paul Sagar, Political Theory (April 30, 2018) [Online First].

Interviews and Coverage

Entitled Opinions, with Robert Harrison.  KZSU/podcast (June 13, 2018).

Thinker's Garden, with Jonah Locksley (April 10, 2018).

New Books in Political Science, with Lilly Goren.  New Books Network (March 16, 2018).

The Page 99 Test (March 12, 2018).

The Show, with Steve Goldstein.  NPR Phoenix, KJZZ (January 25, 2018)

Stanford Report (December 29, 2017).  Reprinted in Futurity (January 3, 2018).

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Absolving God: Religion and Rhetoric in Hobbes’s Political Thought (in progress)

This book aims to account for dramatic changes in Thomas Hobbes’ strategies of religious and scriptural argument across his political works.  While there is a growing literature on the importance of Hobbes’ religious arguments to his political and philosophical project, there has been virtually no work on the changes in the content and structure of these arguments over time.  This book will seek to account for three such changes—Hobbes’ increasing focus on Scriptural and religious questions, his turn toward the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and his adoption of an increasingly multi-pronged argumentative strategy on religious questions.  The paper “Mosaic Leviathan” offers a preliminary account of my argument about the second change.  The paper "Absolving God's Laws" offers a preliminary account of my argument about the third change.  In accounting for these changes, the book will use tools of automated text analysis to identify themes and shifts in religious discourse in the pamphlet literature of seventeenth-century England.  It will also situate Hobbes’ changing approaches within broader debates about the political response to religious ideals and interests.  

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