Historian, Teacher, Writer

I am a historian of social and political thought, international social movements, and visualizations of the capitalist system. Currently I work as a lecturer at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where I teach courses in history, political science, and international studies. Previously I worked at the University of Chicago and Yale University. I received my Ph.D. in history with an interdisciplinary minor in critical theory from the University of California, Berkeley.

My first book was New Lefts: The Making of a Radical Tradition (Princeton University Press, 2021). Long before the New Left of the 1960s, a series of smaller new lefts in Western Europe broke with mainstream Social Democracy and Communism. What I call neoleftism was an internal revolt against the established party and union forms of organization. In three historical phases—radical antifascism in the 1920s-30s, left socialism in the 1940s-50s, and anti-authoritarianism in the 1960s—generations of neoleftists experimented with non-hierarchical councils, assemblies, and action committees. The book starts by analyzing Georg Lukács’s theory of new forms, and it proceeds with an archive-based history of the German group New Beginning as it operated in the antifascist resistance and postwar reconstruction. Many of the group’s members such Richard Löwenthal, Fritz Erler, Ossip Flechtheim, and Wolfgang Abendroth went on to prominent careers in academia or politics. The book’s focus is Germany, but it also includes comparative cases from France, Spain, and Britain. Across Western Europe, neoleftists devised unorthodox Marxist theories whose results ranged from social democratic modernization to avant-garde counterculture. After passing through youthful radicalism, many experienced the irony of defending institutions they once opposed. The book culminates with the West German student revolt and the French May Movement of 1968, events which occurred amid a crisis of democracy and a transition to post-industrial society. Combining methods of intellectual history, political history, and critical theory, this book offers a fresh interpretation of the New Left and its historical roots. The book has been reviewed in Boston Review, n+1, The New Journal, Intellectual History Review, Haaretz, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, The Global Sixties, EuropeNow, Catalyst, Twentieth Century Communism, H-Diplo, Journal of Modern History, and Central European History. I have been interviewed about it by The Nation, New Books Network, and American Prestige (4 parts).

My next book project concerns visual representations of capitalism in the Belle Époque. Partly due to advances in image reproduction technology, cartoons and other allegorical images spread in European and North American leftist newspapers between the 1890s and 1910s. Illustrations such as the Pyramid of the Capitalist System (1911) depicted the class hierarchy of industrial society in vivid terms. Circulating as posters and postcards, these images were a political education for workers who spoke diverse languages or could not read: they formed a visual repertoire of class struggle. Popular anti-capitalist artwork of the time tried to strike a balance between “personifying” class relations (i.e., identifying class enemies as specific types of people) and depicting the impersonal structure of class domination. Going too far toward personification could result in false representations such as antisemitic stereotypes, while going too far toward impersonal representation could obscure the clarity of these images and diminish their agitational effect. By analyzing these images from the peak age of industrial capitalism in the West, we might illuminate the challenges of representing later stages of global capitalist development. This project aims to provide a historical answer to why the neoliberal and globalized forms of the capitalist world system seem to defy attempts at “seeing it whole,” i.e., why contemporary capitalism seems too complex to grasp in its totality. The project combines methods of visual history, transnational history, and critical theory.

Along with writing for academic journals such as Modern Intellectual History, The Historical Journal, and New German Critique, my work has appeared in popular publications such as Aeon, The Point, Foreign Policy, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. I also do translation work from German to English, focusing on mid 20th-century texts in Marxist social and political theory. Download my CV here.