Andrew Dilts is a political theorist who works in the traditions of critical theory and the history of political thought, focusing primarily on the relationships between race, sexuality, political membership, sovereignty, and punishment in the United States.
Prof. Dilts studied economics at Indiana University and the London School of Economics before earning a doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the faculty at Loyola Marymount in 2011, Dilts was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago, teaching exclusively in the College’s “Common Core” curriculum as Collegiate Assistant Professor of Social Sciences. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dilts was in residence as a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies. During the spring of 2018, Dilts was Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Dilts is the author of Punishment and Inclusion: Race, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism (Fordham University Press, 2014) which gives a theoretical and historical account of felon/criminal disenfranchisement as it has been practiced in the United States, drawing widely on early modern political theory, post-structuralist french thought, queer theory, disability theory, and critical race theory. Dilts is also co-editor (with Perry Zurn of American University) of Active Intolerance: Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition (Palgrave 2016).
Dilts is co-editor (with Natalie Cisneros of Seattle University) of a special project for Radical Philosophy Review called “Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration,” and has published in Political Theory, Foucault Studies, New Political Science, PhiloSOPHIA, and The Carceral Notebooks. Dilts is also a founding member of Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics and the Prison and Theory Working Group.
Currently, Dilts is at work on two book-length projects. The first—The Birth of Human Capital—traces a critical genealogy of neoliberal human capital theory, demonstrating its deep connections to political systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, and heternormative ableism. The second—What Freedom is For—offers a account of radical freedom based in abolitionist and queer insurgent practices.
University of Chicago: Ph.D., Political Science 2008
University of Chicago: M.A., Political Science 2004
Indiana University, Bloomington: B.A., Economics 2002
Areas of Expertise (14)
Politcal Theory (Modern and Contemporary)
Critical Race Theory
Critical Prison Studies
Race and Politics
Philosophy of Law
Public Law & Judicial Politics
American Political Thought
American Political Development
Law and Society
Foundations of Political Theory (POLS 2000)
“Foundations” is a reading, writing, and discussion intensive course that will introduce students to the history of political thought. Through an engagement with “classic” texts spanning the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary periods in the “west,” we will ask hard questions about justice, truth, value, happiness and the good life, individual and common good, the foundations of political societies, the origins and work of inequality, the value of freedom, subjection, subjectivity and citizenship, violence and morality, and many others. Perhaps above all, we will ask what it means to make something “foundational” at all, and what we have “built” upon that foundation.
Critical Race Theory (POLS 3050 / AFAM 3998 / CHST 3998)
This course takes up the question of race and politics through the lens of critical theory, legal theory, and political philosophies of race and difference. To that end, it is an extended study of what the philosopher Charles Mills describes as “white supremacy as a political system” as it is exercised through the law, social norms, and ways of thinking and knowing. It will primarily focus on the specific academic and political movement of Critical Race Theory (CRT), an offshoot of the Critical Legal Studies tradition that developed in the last quarter of the 20th century and which has taken on renewed importance in the 21st century and its repeated yet unsubstantiated claims of being a “post-racial” social and political order. The course will pay special attention to intersections of race with, sexuality, gender, and disability
Contemporary Political Theory (POLS 3270)
This is a survey course of late 20th and early 21st century political theory. We will cover a range of theoretical approaches in contemporary political theory, including: (1) social welfare liberalism, (2) libertarianism, (3) civic and humanist republicanism, (4) discourse ethics and deliberative democracy, (5) identitarian critiques, and (6) post-structuralism. Throughout the semester, we will pay special attention to two constellations of questions centered on the ideas of “freedom” and “critique.” What do we mean by freedom? Who is the “free agent” or “free subject” of political life? What is the relation between political freedom and freedom in social, economic, and moral spheres? Secondly, what is critique? What is the object of critique? What grounds critique? What role does critical analysis play in political theory? What does it mean to be a critical political thinker in our daily lives and in our multiplicity? What, in the end, is the relationship between freedom and critique?
Detention and Incarceration (POLS 5030)
This seminar course asks what punishment in the form of incarceration and detention means in a modern democratic state and what this particular form of punishment reveals about conceptions of personal responsibility and subjectivity in the Western tradition. To that end, the course offers an in-depth study of punishment theory, the history of the incarceration and detention as punitive forms, the social, economic, and political analysis of prisons, the lived experiences of prisoners, their families, and the workers employed by the United States prison system. The first part of the course will explore the dominant modern approaches to understanding punishment, covering Durkhiem, Marxist interpretations, modern Anglo-American legal traditions, expressive retributivism, and culminating with a close reading of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. The second part of the course focuses on incarceration and detention as they are practiced in the United States in light of these theoretical approaches. The third part of the course asks how such practices play out in terms of collateral consequences and the importance of racial, gender, and sexual identities in relation to punishment. In this course, we will confront our assumptions about incarceration and detention in the US, and critically examine the ways in which we are already connected to, invested in, and increasingly dependent upon a criminal justice system that relies on the mass warehousing of people of color and socio-economically disadvantaged people.
Society and Its Discontents (HNRS 130)
“Society and its Discontents” serves as an introduction to the cultural and ideological formations that have shaped our understanding of social, political, economic, and cultural questions in the contemporary period. In particular, we will focus our attention on the typically fraught relationship between the “self” and “society.” We will organize this discussion through the work of two quintessentially ‘modern’ theorists of society, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, and their reinterpretation in twentieth century social theory. By tracing Marx and Freud’s theories of the self and society through the work of W.E.B. DuBois, Herbert Marcuse, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, and Michel Foucault, we will ask how we should best think about society at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Beyond Good and Evil (HNRS 3110/4200)
What does it mean for “morality” to have a history? What about freedom? Equality? The Self? The Psyche? The Soul? How are we to orient ourselves toward the task of living if we take seriously Nietzsche’s assertion that it is precisely “we knowers” who are “unknown to ourselves?” Beyond Good and Evil is a course in critical ethical and moral theory, studying the cultural and ideological formations that have shaped our understandings of ethical, social, political, and economic questions in our contemporary moment. In this small and reading-intensive seminar, we will focus on the fraught relationships between three definitive modern terms: the self, society, and freedom. We will ask hard questions about these terms which are meant to disorient ourselves from the certainty we have, so that we may be able to think more ethically, freer, and more honestly about our actions and reactions to the world in which we find ourselves. We will organize this discussion through the work of three quintessentially “modern” social theorists—Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—and reinterpretations of their thought in twentieth century social theory. By tracing their theories of the self and society we will ask: how can we be free as individuals and collectively as a society in these first decades of the twenty-first century.
Punishment and Mercy (POLS 4030)
This course will explore the many theoretical and practical difficulties that arise in attempting to reconcile an effective and just system of social punishment with the virtue of mercy. The relationship between mercy and punishment is frequently viewed as mutually exclusive or contradictory. Can a system forego punishment (through mercy) for some and still have equality? Can a system punish offenders and still uphold the dignity of the individual? How does one mediate between impunity and vengeance? Utilizing the lenses of modern philosophical ethics (Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, Kant), contemporary political theory (Nietzsche, Durkheim, Foucault, Derrida), and theology (Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, United States Catholic Bishops) as well as engaging contemporary case-studies, this course analyzes this relationship in terms of competing strategies of punishment, moral rules and boundaries, moral and premoral goods, and philosophical and theological visions of forgiveness and mercy. The purpose of the course is not to develop an overly simplistic solution but rather to challenge and transform students’ presuppositions regarding mercy and punishment.
Carceral Enjoyments & Killjoying the Social Life of Social DeathBuilding Abolition: Decarceration and Social Justice, Edited by Chloë Taylor and Kelly Struthers Montford
Dilts, Andrew. “Carceral Enjoyments & Killjoying the Social Life of Social Death,” in Building Abolition: Decarceration and Social Justice, Edited by Chloë Taylor and Kelly Struthers Montford, 196-223. New York: Routledge, 2021.
Crisis, Critique, and AbolitionA Time for Critique, edited by Didier Fassin and Bernard Harcourt
Dilts, Andrew. “Crisis, Critique, and Abolition,” in A Time for Critique, edited by Didier Fassin and Bernard Harcourt, 230-251. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. German Translation: “Krise, Kritik und Abolition” in Abolitionismus. Ein Reader, edited by Daniel Loick and Vanessa Thompson. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2022. (Translation by Marvin Ester and Ann- Katrin Kastberg)
The Ugliness of Freedom’s Practices, Hypervisibility, and Enjoyment: A Response to Elisabeth AnkerTheory & Event
Dilts, Andrew. “The Ugliness of Freedom’s Practices, Hypervisibility, and Enjoyment: A Response to Elisabeth Anker.” Theory & Event 23, no. 1 (2020): 215-226.
Toward Abolitionist GenealogySouthern Journal of Philosophy
“Toward Abolitionist Genealogy.” Southern Journal of Philosophy 55:Spindel Supplement (2017): 51-77.
Justice as FailureLaw, Culture and the Humanities
“Justice as Failure.” Law, Culture and the Humanities 13:2 (2017): 184-192.
Active Intolerance: An IntroductionPalgrave Macmillan
“Active Intolerance: An Introduction,” (with Perry Zurn) in Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition, edited by Perry Zurn and Andrew Dilts. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Death Penalty Abolition in Neoliberal Times: The SAFE California Act and the Nexus of Savings and SecurityFordham University Press
“Death Penalty Abolition in Neoliberal Times: The SAFE California Act and the Nexus of Savings and Security,” in Death and Other Penalties, edited by Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman, 106-129. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.
Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration: Introduction to Part IIRadical Philosophy Review
“Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration: Introduction to Part II,” (with Natalie Cisneros). Radical Philosophy Review 18:2 (Fall 2015).
LawCambridge University Press
“Law” in The Foucault Lexicon, edited by Leonard Lawlor and John Nale, 243-250. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration: Introduction to Part IRadical Philosophy Review
“Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration: Introduction to Part I,” (with Natalie Cisneros). Radical Philosophy Review 17:2 (Fall 2014).
Incurable Blackness: Collateral Consequences to Incarceration and Mental DisabilityDisability Studies Quarterly
“Incurable Blackness: Collateral Consequences to Incarceration and Mental Disability.” Disability Studies Quarterly 32:3 (July 2012).
How I learned to keep worrying and love teaching the canonPhiloSOPHIA: A Journal of Continental Feminism
“How I learned to keep worrying and love teaching the canon” in Symposium: Reflections on Continental and Feminist Pedagogy. PhiloSOPHIA: A Journal of Continental Feminism 2:1 (2012): 78-81.
Revisiting Johan Galtung's Concept of Structural Violence: IntroductionNew Political Science
“Revisiting Johan Galtung's Concept of Structural Violence: Introduction.” New Political Science 34:2 (May 2012): 191-194.
To Kill A Thief: Punishment, Proportionality, and Criminal Subjectivity in Locke's Second TreatisePolitical Theory
“To Kill A Thief: Punishment, Proportionality, and Criminal Subjectivity in Locke's Second Treatise.” Political Theory 40:1 (February 2012): 58-83.
African American Women: Intersectionality in PoliticsOxford University Press
“African American Women: Intersectionality in Politics,” (with Jamila Celestine and Cathy J. Cohen), in The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., 492-515. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
From ‘Entrepreneur of the Self’ to ‘Care of the Self’: Neoliberal Governmentality and Foucault’s EthicsFoucault Studies
“From ‘Entrepreneur of the Self’ to ‘Care of the Self’: Neoliberal Governmentality and Foucault’s Ethics.” Foucault Studies 12 (October 2011): 130-146.
Michel Foucault Meets Gary Becker: Criminality Beyond Discipline and PunishCarceral Notebooks
“Michel Foucault Meets Gary Becker: Criminality Beyond Discipline and Punish.” Carceral Notebooks 4 (2008): 77-100.
Discipline, Security and Beyond: a Brief IntroductionCarceral Notebooks
“Discipline, Security and Beyond: a Brief Introduction” (with Bernard Harcourt), in Carceral Notebooks 4, (2008): 1-6.