Wendy Brown

UPS Foundation Professor

A political theorist who works across the history of political thought, political economy, Continental philosophy, cultural theory and critical legal theory, Wendy Brown is the UPS Foundation Chair in the School of Social Science.  Prior to her appointment at the Institute, she was Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a prize-winning teacher and scholar. 

Drawing from Nietzschean, Weberian, Marxist, Foucauldian, feminist and postcolonial angles of vision, Professor Brown writes about the subterranean powers shaping contemporary EuroAtlantic polities, with particular attention to the political identities, subjectivities and expressions they spawn.  The author/co-author of a dozen books in English, she is best known for her interrogation of identity politics and state power in States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (1995); her critical analysis of tolerance in Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (2006); her account of the inter-regnum between nation states and globalization in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010); and her study of neoliberalism’s assault on democratic principles, institutions and citizenship in Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (2015) and In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (2019).  Across her work, Brown aims to illuminate powers unique to our era and the predicaments they generate for democratic thought and practice. These predicaments range from rule by finance, to the de-democratization of political culture, to the nihilistic depletion of truth, values and conscience. 

Currently, Brown is exploring how political freedom can be salvaged from its historical imbrication with regimes of class, race and gender subjection and be made responsive to the climate crisis. Her driving question is whether and how political freedom can be reformulated in light of both. She is also extending and revising for publication her 2019 Yale Tanner Lectures, “Politics and Knowledge in Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber.” 

 Brown’s work, translated into more than twenty languages, has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Cornell University Humanities Center, the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the Institute for Advanced Study.  She has held a number of visiting professorships and fellowships, including at Cornell, Columbia, Duke, the European Graduate School, University of Lucerne, University of London (Birkbeck), London School of Economics, and the University of Witwatersrand.  She is frequently interviewed by journalists, podcasters, and filmmakers, especially on the topics of neoliberalism, democracy and nation- state border fortification.

Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, Brown received her BA in Economics and Politics from UC Santa Cruz and her PhD in Political Philosophy from Princeton University.  She credits her thinking life to the excellent, accessible public universities of her youth and has written extensively about the importance of securing and revitalizing these institutions for future generations.