College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Political Science > Faculty > David Lay Williams
PhD, University of Texas at Austin
Professor Williams teaches and conducts research in political theory, especially the history of political thought. He received his PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Rousseau's Platonic Enlightenment, Rousseau's 'Social Contract': An Introduction, and "The Greatest of All Plagues": How Economic Inequality Shaped Political Thought from Plato to Marx, as well as numerous articles on thinkers ranging from Plato to Jürgen Habermas and topics such as democratic theory, economic inequality, political ontology, and deception. In 2003-2004 and 2008-2009, he held research fellowships at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and in 2012-13, he held a faculty fellowship at the DePaul Humanities Center. In 2016-2017 he was the Wicklander Fellow at DePaul's Institute for Business and Professional Ethics. From 2017-2022 he was the political theory editor for the journal, Political Research Quarterly. In 2023-2024, he is collaborating with Professor Matthew W. Maguire (History & Catholic Studies) and the Alliance Française in Chicago as part of the HumanitiesX program, funded by the Mellon Foundation, in which he will co-teach a course on Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and co-direct a public roundtable on Tocqueville’s relevance today. Professor Williams also writes short pieces connecting the history of political thought to contemporary political concerns for outlets such as the Washington Post, The Hill, Public Seminar, and Bloomberg News.
Professor Williams is presently developing a book on economic inequality and the doctrine of sufficientarianism – the argument that economic inequality is itself unproblematic so long as the poor have sufficient resources to satisfy their basic needs, a doctrine broadly embraced by philosophers, economists, and public intellectuals. He draws from moral psychology and the history of political thought to challenge this doctrine and its potentially damaging effects on public policy debates. He is also developing short essays on the relationship of republicanism, civic virtue, and economic equality.