Levine, Wiliam

My research examines the legacy of Kant’s ideas among an underexamined set of writers, intellectuals, and activists in the tradition of radical social theory in Germany. I am especially interested in how these theorists have drawn on Kant to advocate for popular participation in pursuit of emancipation in moments of political transformation in modern Germany.


My current book project expands my dissertation, “The Movement is Everything: Radical Kantianism and the Ideal of Emancipation in Modern Germany,” into a book manuscript. It turns to the reception of Kant’s ideas in the tradition of radical social theory to uncover a set of conversations about emancipation that figured it as a contingent ideal to be achieved through collective action, rather than the result of some larger historical processes. This project analyzes these conversations as they unfolded in moments of radical political upheaval and change: from the French Revolution to 1848, through World War I and into the Weimar Republic. In focusing on moments of political transformation, it is able to show how intellectual historical debate intersected with social movements that strove for emancipation. As contemporary political thinkers struggle with renewed anxieties about political idealism and utopianism that have emerged with particular force since the end of the Cold War, this project seeks to recover a largely forgotten set of resources for theorizing emancipation today.


I earned my PhD from the University of Chicago in 2019, where I also earned my M.A. in 2015. Prior to that, I received a B.A. in Philosophy from Purchase College (SUNY).