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Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs PortraitsClaudia Leeb

Associate Professor of Political Theory

Office: Johnson Tower 808
Phone: 335-8701
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

Bio: I am originally from Austria, and I do research and teaching in the fields of political theory, philosophy and women’s studies. There are two questions that drive my recent research: What are the mechanisms of power that dominate and subordinate the working classes, women, and minorities in contemporary societies? What can we do to break through these mechanisms of power to create more just societies? I work at the intersection of early Frankfurt school critical theory, feminist theory, and psychoanalytic theory to address these questions in relation to three research areas: capitalism, political guilt and democracy, and the rise of the far-right.

1. Capitalism: My research in this area is mostly focused on how we can transform power structures in capitalist societies. In Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism (2017, Oxford University Press), I bring German critical theory (Marx and Adorno) and French psychoanalytic thought (Lacan) into conversation to analyze power and socio-political change in capitalist societies. I develop the idea of the moment of the limit, which refers to those moments when power structures fail to completely subordinate the working classes, women, and minorities, and transformative agency becomes a possibility. I also develop the idea of the political subject-in-outline, as the agent of socio-political change, which moves within the tension of a certain coherence, necessary for agency, and permanent openness, necessary to counter the exclusionary character of a political collectivity based on an identity. The book has been reviewed in Political Theory (2018), Perspectives on Politics (2018), Gender and Politics (2018), Hypatia (2018) and Choice (2018). I have several articles in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters in edited volumes related to this research area recently published.

In my previously published book, Working-Class Women in Elite Academia: A Philosophical Inquiry (2004, Peter Lang Publisher, Philosophy and Politics Series), I discuss the subtle mechanisms of power in academic institutions that contribute to keep working-class, female and minority scholars either out or at the margins of academic institutions, and explain the strategies they use to resist their marginalization in academia. In my other earlier book, Die Zerstӧrung des Mythos von der Friedfertigen Frau [The Destruction of the Myth of the Peaceful Woman] (1998, Peter Lang Verlag), I show that discourses that suggest that women are naturally less aggressive than men contribute to marginalize assertive women by suggesting that such behavior is “unnatural” for women, and demonstrate that human aggression is more determined by social group contexts than by gender

2. Political Guilt and Democracy: My 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 my book The Politics of Repressed Guilt (2018, Edinburgh University Press), for which I received the Washington State University Humanities Fellowship to support writing the initial draft, I bring political and critical theory (Arendt and Adorno) in conversation with psychoanalytic theory (Anna Freud) to elaborate the functioning of power in the context of totalitarian regimes. I analyze post-war trial cases of Austrian Nazi perpetrators and contemporary debates about Austria’s involvement in Nazi crimes to expose the mechanisms used by individuals and nations to fend off individual and political guilt. I argue that only by confronting guilt can individuals and nations take responsibility for past crimes, show solidarity with the victims of crimes and their descendants, and ensure that such crimes are not repeated. I also take up concepts developed in Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism, such as the moment of the limit to explain those few instances when people resisted the Nazis; and to show that subjects-in-outline, who do not wholly identify with a nation, are best in a position to work through the nation’s past, which is necessary to live up to guilt and break the cycle of negative consequences that result from repressed guilt. In this research area I have also published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters in edited volumes.

3. The Rise of the Far-Right: My new research area explores the mechanisms of power that allow the far-right to exploit the suffering created by capitalism for its own political ends. My current book project, The Rise of the Far-right: A Psychoanalytic and Economic Analysis, draws on critical theory and psychoanalytic theory to explain how economic and psychological factors interact in the rise of the far-right in the United States and Europe, as current literature either focuses on one or the other, and thus misses their interaction. I ground the theoretical framework with an analysis of interviews with supporters of the far-right, as well as literary examples. I further develop themes from The Politics of Repressed Guilt, such as the ways in which a nation’s repressed guilt is connected to the rise of the far-right, and apply concepts introduced in Power and Feminist Agency, such as the ways in which the far-right has exploited people’s attempts to achieve a whole subjectivity for its electoral gains. I plan to have a first draft of the book completed in April 2019. In this research area I have also published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters in edited volumes.


  • Graduate Seminar in Normative Theory (PolS 502)
  • Classical Political Thought (PolS/Phil 437)
  • Development of Marxist Thought (PolS/Phil 333)
  • Feminism and Philosophy (Phil/Women_St 425)
  • Contemporary Political Theory (PolS/Phi438)


  • Claudia Leeb, The Politics of Repressed Guilt: The Tragedy of Austrian Silence (March 2018) Edinburgh University Press.
  • Claudia Leeb, Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject (May 2017) Oxford University Press; Reviewed in: Perspectives on Politics (2018), Political Theory (2018), Hypatia (2018), Gender and Politics (2018), and Choice (2018).
  • Claudia Leeb, Working-Class Women in Elite Academia: A Philosophical Inquiry (2004) Peter Lang Publisher, Philosophy and Politics Series; Reviewed in: Labor History (2005); Feminism & Psychology (2006); and Feminist Collections (2007).
  • 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.


  • Lisa N. Gurley, Claudia Leeb & Anna Aloisia Moser (eds.) Feminists Contest Politics and Philosophy (2005) Peter Lang Publisher, Philosophy and Politics Series.


  • 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” (forthcoming in 2018).
  • 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, “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 (Published online: May 2018), 11-22.
  • 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, “Critical Dialogue: Response to James Martel’s review of Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism: Toward a New Theory of the Political Subject”,            Perspectives on Politics (vol. 16, no. 1, February 2018), 169-170.
  • 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, “Laughing at the Other: Towards an Understanding of the Alt-Right” in Amirhosein Khandizaji (ed.) Reading Adorno: The Endless Road (forthcoming).
  • 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, in press)
  • 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.
  • Claudia Leeb, “Contesting Hierarchical Oppositions: The Dialectics of Adorno and Lacan,” in Alfred J. Drake (ed.) New Essays on the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009), 168-192.
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