College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Political Science > Faculty > David Lay Williams

David Lay Williams

  • Professor and Pre-law Advisor
  • PhD, University of Texas at Austin

  • Political Science
  • Political theory; history of political thought
  • 773-325-4906
  • 990 West Fullerton, room 2205


Professor Williams teaches and conducts research in political theory, especially the history of political thought. He is the author of Rousseau’s Platonic Enlightenment, Rousseau's 'Social Contract': An Introduction, and numerous articles on thinkers ranging from Plato to Jürgen Habermas and topics such as democratic theory, the separation of powers, social contract theory, religion and politics, terrorism, institutional design, political ontology, fear, love, and deception. He is also co-editor (with James Farr) of The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept.  In 2003-04 and 2008-09 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. Professor Williams also writes short pieces connecting the history of political thought to contemporary political concerns for outlets such as the Washington Post's Monkey Cage and Bloomberg News.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Fundamental Political Writings (co-edited with Matthew W. Maguire; translated by Ian Johnston).  Broadview Press, March, 2018.
The General Will:  The Evolution of a Concept
(co-edited with James Farr et al.).  Cambridge University Press, February, 2015. 
Rousseau's 'Social Contract': An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2014. 
Rousseau's Platonic Enlightenment .  Penn State University, 2007. 

Current Activities

Professor Williams is working on several projects, including The Greatest of All Plagues: Economic Inequality in the History of Political Thought (under contract with Princeton University Press), in which he is tracing the development of concern about the problem of economic inequality.  Beyond this, David is also working on Spinoza's Republics of Fear, Love, and Reason