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School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs Meet our Faculty!

Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs PortraitsClaudia Leeb

Associate Professor of Political Theory

Office: VMMC 202F
Phone: 360-546-9552
Curriculum Vitae
Personal Website


Ph.D. in Political Theory and Philosophy, The New School for Social Research, New York
Ph.D. in Psychology and Philosophy of Science, University of Vienna, Austria
M.A. in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory, The New School for Social Research
B.S./M.S. in Psychology, The University of Vienna

Dr. Claudia Leeb is originally from Austria. Before coming to Washington State University, she taught at Roanoke College and Dartmouth College and held post-doc positions at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Dr. Leeb lectures about her work worldwide and has won prestigious awards and grants to support her research. She is the author of four books, which scholars have widely reviewed.

Dr. Leeb has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in journals, including Political Theory, Perspectives on Politics, Constellations, Theory & Event, Contemporary Political Theory, Critical Horizons, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Social Philosophy Today, and Radical Philosophy Review. In addition, she has also published many peer-reviewed book chapters in edited volumes.

Two questions drive Dr. Leeb’s research: First, what are the mechanisms of power that subordinate the working classes, women, and minorities in contemporary societies? Second, what can we do to break through these mechanisms of power to create more just societies? She brings together early Frankfurt School critical theory, feminist theory, and psychoanalytic thought to address these questions in three coinciding research areas: political subjectivity, political guilt and democracy, and the rise of the far-right.

1. Political Subjectivity: Dr. Leeb’s research in this area focuses on transforming power structures in capitalist societies. In her recent book, Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism (2017, Oxford University Press), she develops the novel concept of the feminist political subject-in-outline as the agent of socio-political change. This agent moves within the tension of a certain coherence necessary for an agency (the subject) and permanent openness (the outline) essential to counter the exclusionary character of a political collectivity based on identity. She also develops the innovative idea of the moment of the limit, which refers to those moments when power fails to subordinate the working classes, women, and minorities, and transformative agency becomes a possibility. She grounds this book in German critical theory (Marx and Adorno) and French psychoanalytic thought (Lacan). She received the 2018 Austrian Scientists in North America (ASCINA) Award for research excellence for this book. In addition, Political Theory (2019) has published a book symposium on it, and Perspectives on Politics published a Critical Dialogue (2018). Reviews about the book also appeared in Gender and Politics (2018), Hypatia (2018), and Choice (2018).

2. Political Guilt and Democracy: Dr. Leeb’s second research area explores the mechanisms used by totalitarian power to perpetrate crimes and to cover over such crimes by repressing guilt for them In her other recent book, The Politics of Repressed Guilt (2018, Edinburgh University Press), she develops the innovative concept of embodied reflective judgment, which underlines that thinking and feeling are interconnected and vital for critical judgment. She analyzes post-war trial cases of Austrian Nazi perpetrators and contemporary debates about Austria’s involvement in Nazi crimes to show that if individuals and nations repress guilt feelings, their capacity to make critical judgments is diminished. Only by confronting guilt can individuals and nations make critical judgements, take responsibility for past crimes, and show solidarity with the victims of crimes and their descendants. She grounds this book in critical and political theory (Adorno and Arendt) and psychoanalytic theory (Anna Freud). Critical Horizons (2020) published a book symposium on it. In addition, reviews about the book appeared in Perspectives on Politics (2020), Constellations (2021), Philosophy in Review (2020), and Austrian Studies (2019).

3. The Rise of the Far-Right:  In Dr. Leeb’s new research area, she explores the mechanisms of power that allow the far right to exploit the suffering created by capitalism for its political ends Dr. Leeb’s current book project, Analyzing the Far-Right: A Feminist Dialectics of the Socio-Economic and the Psychological, she outlines the dialectics of the socio-economic and psychological forces that led to the rise of the far-right and extremist right in the United States and Europe. In precarity capitalism, objective conditions generate subjective suffering because most people cannot live up to economic, interpersonal, and bodily “success” standards. As a result, people experience themselves as non-whole subjects on an economic, interpersonal, and physical level with accompanying feelings of anxiety and failure. In response, far and extremist right propaganda techniques generate regressive processes in their followers, allowing them to feel like “whole” subjects again, quell their anxieties, and eliminate feelings of failure. However, the same regressive processes, which provide the followers with the illusion of subjective wholeness, also loosen their checks on aggression. As a result, the far and extremist right can redirect such aggression towards their outside targets of hatred (minorities, immigrants, and women). She grounds this book in psychoanalytic theory (Freud), critical theory (Marx and Adorno), and contemporary feminist thought.

She teaches both politics and philosophy courses in Washington State University’s School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs. She offers undergraduate courses on the development of Marxist thought, feminism and philosophy, contemporary political theory, and classical political thought. In addition, she offers graduate courses that introduce graduate students to the core political theory and philosophy fields and supervises doctoral candidates in political theory and philosophy.



  •  Claudia Leeb, The Politics of Repressed Guilt: The Tragedy of Austrian Silence (March 2018) Edinburgh University Press. Review Symposia in Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory (vol. 21, no. 1, 2020), 63-79; Reviewed in: Constellations (Vol. 28, no. 3, September 2021), 447-452; Perspectives on Politics (vol. 18, no. 2, June 2020), 603-605; Philosophy in Review (vol. 40, no. 2, May 2020), 67–69; and Austrian Studies (vol. 52, no. 4, Winter 2019), 122-124.
  •  Claudia Leeb, Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject (May 2017) Oxford University Press. Review Symposia in Political Theory (vol. 47, no. 4, August 2019), 559-580. Critical Dialogue in Perspectives on Politics (vol. 16, no. 1, March 18 2018), 168-172. Reviewed in: Gender and Politics (vol. 14, no. 3, September 2018), 14-16; Hypatia (Reviews Online, 2018); Choice (vol. 55, no. 9, May 2018).
  • Claudia Leeb, Working-Class Women in Elite Academia: A Philosophical Inquiry (2004) Peter Lang Publisher, Philosophy and Politics Series; Reviewed in: Labor History (vol. 46, no. 4, 2005), 531-563; Feminist Collections (vol. 28, no. 2, Winter 2007), 1-5; Feminism & Psychology (vol. 16, no. 4, November 2006), 485-512.
  •  Claudia Leeb, Die Zerstörung des Mythos von der Friedfertigen Frau Der Einfluss von Sozialen Gruppenkontexten auf das Direkte Aggressionsverhalten von Frauen
    [The Destruction of the Peaceful Woman Myth: The Impact of Social Group Contexts on the Direct Aggression Behavior of Women(1998) Peter Lang Verlag.


  • • Claudia Leeb, “Castration Anxiety, Covid-19, and the Extremist Right,” Global Discourse (vol. 11, no. 3, 2021), 387-403.
    • Claudia Leeb, “The Right Extremist Identitarian Movement in Europe: A Critical Theory Analysis,” Azimuth: An International Journal of Philosophy (vol. 8, no. 16, 2020), 71-88.
    • Claudia Leeb, “The Hysteric Rebels: Rethinking Socio-Political Transformation with Foucault and Lacan”, Theory & Event (vol. 23, no. 3, July 2020), 607-640.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Towards a Politics of Feelings of Guilt: A Response to McIvor and Rensmann, “Review Symposia on Claudia Leeb’s The Politics of Repressed Guilt: The Tragedy of Austrian Silence, Critical Horizons (vol. 21, no. 1, 2020) 63-79.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Theorizing Feminist Political Subjectivity: A Reply to Caputi and Naranch”; A Critical Feminist Exchange: Symposium on Claudia Leeb, Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject, Political Theory (vol. 47, no. 4, August 2019), 559-580.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Mystified Consciousness: Rethinking the Rise of the Far Right with Marx and Lacan”, Open Cultural Studies, special edition “Marx, Semiotics and Political Praxis” (vol 2, no. 1, October 2018), 236-248.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Rethinking Embodied Reflective Judgment with Adorno and Arendt”, Constellations (vol. 25, no. 3, September 2018), 446-458.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Rebelling Against Suffering in Capitalism”, Contemporary Political Theory, (lead article, vol. 17, no. 3, August 2018), 263-282.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Mass Hypnoses: The Rise of the Far Right from an Adornian and Freudian Perspective”, Berlin Journal of Critical Theory (vol. 2, no. 3, July 2018), 59-82.
    • Claudia Leeb, “The Contemporary Frankfurt School’s Eurocentrism Unveiled: The Contribution of Amy Allen”; Liberating Critical Theory: Eurocentrism, Normativity, and Capitalism: Symposium on Amy Allen’s The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory (Published online: March 2018), 1 – 8.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Critical Dialogue: The Misinterpellated Subject by James Martel,” Perspectives on Politics (vol. 16, no. 1, February 2018), 170-172.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Radical Political Change: A Feminist Perspective,” Radical Philosophy Review (vol.17, no.1, 2014), 227-250.
    • Claudia Leeb, “The Im-Possibilities of the Feminist Subject,” Social Philosophy Today (vol. 25, 2009), 47-60.
    • Claudia Leeb, “The Politics of Misrecognition: A Feminist Critique,” The Good Society (vol. 18, no.1, September 2009), 70-75.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Toward a Theoretical Outline of the Subject: The Centrality of Adorno and Lacan for Feminist Political Theorizing,” Political Theory (vol. 36, no. 3, June 2008), 351-376.
    • Claudia Leeb, “Desires and Fears: Women, Class and Adorno,” Theory & Event (vol. 11, no. 1, February 2008).
    • Claudia Leeb, “Marx and the Gendered Structure of Capitalism,” Philosophy & Social Criticism (vol. 33, no. 7, November 2007), 833-859.

• Claudia Leeb, “Austria’s Repressed Guilt in Theory and Practice: Personal Encounters”, in Vincenzo Pinto (ed.) Remembering the Holocaust in Germany, Austria, Italy and Israel: “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” (Mastering the Past) as a historical quest (Leiden: Brill Press, 2021), 25 -38.
• Claudia Leeb, “Adorno and Freud meet Kazuo Ishiguro: The Rise of the Far Right from a Psychoanalytic and Critical Theory Perspective”, in Jeremiah Morelock (ed.) How to Critique Authoritarian Populism: Methodologies of the Frankfurt School (Leiden: Brill Press, 2021), 200-219.
• Claudia Leeb, “Laughing at the Other: Toward an Understanding of the Alt-Right with Adorno” in Amirhosein Khandizaji (ed.) Reading Adorno: The Endless Road (New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2019), 75-100.
• Claudia Leeb, “Mourning Denied: The Tabooed Subject,” in David McIvor and Alexander Hirsch (eds.) The Democratic Arts of Mourning: Political Theory and Loss (New York: Lexington Press, 2019), 65-82.
• Claudia Leeb, “Radical or Neoliberal Political Imaginary? Nancy Fraser Revisited,” in Werner Bonefeld, Beverley Best, and Chris O’Kane (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory (New York: Sage Publisher, 2018), 550-563.
• Claudia Leeb, “A Festival for Frustrated Egos: The Rise of Trump from an Early Frankfurt School Critical Theory Perspective”, in Trump and Political Philosophy: Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism and Civic Virtue, Angel Jaramillo and Sable Marc (eds.) (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 297-314.
• Claudia Leeb, “Female Resistance or the Politics of Death? Rethinking Antigone,” in Gabriel Ricci (ed.) The Persistence of Critical Theory, (Culture & Civilization, Vol. 8, Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2017), 223-240.