Milo Ward

Date of Award


First Advisor

Asma Abbas

Second Advisor

Lawrence Burke

Third Advisor

Brendan Mathews


This thesis responds to a trend amongst contemporary political theorists who claim that present geopolitics are defined by a permanent state of emergency. They argue that today’s politics have been reduced to those of security, where the ubiquitous threat of illicit violence designates the sovereign power as the final arbiter of the sacrifices liberal states and its subjects must make in the defense of democracy. These theorists consider the state of emergency to be an indicator that law has reached the limit of its authority over violence, but has extended its rule by fastening itself to liberal democracy. They turn to political theology to access truths on the nature of power and its position and exercise in social-political relations in order to reinterpret the present conditions of humanity. These truths and political origins are then established as temporalities to counter, transcend, and subvert contemporary liberal and capitalist ones. Instead of turning to theology to provide the means and boundaries to human action and sensation, I study the politics of eighteenth century theorist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to consider an unbounded sphere of human interaction and experience that demands material and ethical duties to a politics that determines social relations.

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