Stephen Sawyer


  • Department: History and Politics
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Stephen W. Sawyer is the Ballantine-Leavitt Professor of History and Director of the Center for Critical Democracy Studies. Sawyer came to AUP from the University of Chicago center in Paris and the Ecole Normale Supérieure-rue d’Ulm where he was lecturer in the final years of his dissertation. After receiving fellowships from the EHESS, Fulbright, and Sciences Po, Sawyer served as part-time assistant to Pierre Rosanvallon at the Collège de France. A specialist in political history and theory, Sawyer earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. He has served on the editorial board of the Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales and as the Associate Editor for its English version since 2012. In 2014-15, he was named inaugural Neubauer Collegium Fellow at the University of Chicago. Appointed Directeur de publications of The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville in 2014, he founded the online platform Tocqueville21 in 2017. In 2018-2019, he was named research fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In Spring 2020 he was invited Kratter Visiting Professor to the History Department at Stanford University.

The core of his project articulates a history and theory of democracy as a mode of popular magistrature, administration and public regulation. The project advances along two dimensions: first, a critical intellectual history featuring a close rereading of key texts and authors that may be read surprisingly differently when one places democracy – rather than liberalism or republicanism – at the center of our histories of political modernity. Second, the project turns on a rediscovery and re-prioritization of the variety of substantive and concrete activities, programs, and policies that have constituted democratic action. The first volume of this project was published in 2018 under the title Demos Assembled: Democracy and the International Origins of the Modern State, 1840-1880 (University of Chicago Press). It was followed by a monograph entitled La contingence et le pouvoir (Armand Colin, 2018). This book, focusing on the highly contentious figure Adolphe Thiers, further elaborated the project’s methodology, “a pragmatic history of the political.” He is currently preparing the second volume on Regulation and the Birth of the Democratic Social Contract, 1810-1850. The project as a whole self-consciously builds on late twentieth-century, primarily French, democratic and social theory. Sawyer has explored this work and its legacy in a series of edited volumes, including: In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Antitotalitarianism and Intellectual Politics in France since 1950 (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2016); Pierre Rosanvallon's Political Thought (Bielefeld University Press, 2018); Michel Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019); and his translation of Michel Foucault's lectures Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice (University of Chicago Press, 2014). The international, historical and theoretical dimensions of this project have been explicitly elaborated in a series of co-edited volumes with his colleagues William Novak and James Sparrow, including Beyond Stateless Democracy (Tocqueville Review, Spring 2015), A Comparative History of the French and American Democratic States (Tocqueville Review, 2012) and Boundaries of the State in US History (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Alongside these 9 volumes, the project includes over sixty articles, book chapters and reviews, in six countries and leading journals including The American Historical Review, Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales, The Journal of Modern History, Modern Intellectual History, The European History Quarterly and The Tocqueville Review.


  • PhD, University of Chicago
  • MA, University of Chicago
  • BA, Hanover College


Stephen Sawyer has been awarded a three-year European Research Council Horizons Grant as a Principal Investigator in an international consortium on deradicalization entitled D.Rad.


  • 2018. Demos Assembled: Democracy and the International Origins of the Modern State, 1840-1880 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
  • 2018. Adolphe Thiers ou la contingence et le pouvoir (Paris: Armand Colin)
Edited Volumes and Translations
  • 2019. Michel Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond, co-editor with Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins (Rowman and Littlefield).
  • 2018. Pierre Rosanvallon’s Interdisciplinary Political Thought, co-editor with Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Franziska Martinsen, Daniel Schulz (University of Bielefeld Press)
  • 2016. Co-editor (with Iain Stewart) In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Anti-totalitarianism and Intellectual Politics in France, 1950 to present (New York: Palgrave)
  • 2015. Co-editor (with James T. Sparrow and William Novak), Boundaries of the State in United States History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
  • 2014. Co-editor (with Etienne Anheim, Romain Bertrand and Antoine Lilti), The Annales and History on a World Scale
  • 2014. Translator, Michel Foucault, Wrong-Doing, Truth Telling. Bernard Harcourt and Fabienne Brion, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
  • 2012. Editor, special issue on “The History of the French and American States.” The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, Vol. XXXIII, n° 2
  • 2011. Editor, Une cartographie culturelle de Paris: Les Ambiances du Paris-Métropole, Report submitted to the City of Paris, 195 pps, 55 maps and illustrations.
  • 2009. Co-editor with Jan Goldstein, edited volume of conference papers Paris-Chicago: Urban Cultures in Comparative Perspective. Special volume of the Cahiers Parisiens/Parisian Notebooks (Paris: University of Chicago Center in Paris).
Articles and Book Chapters
  • 2020 “Was There an American Concept of Emergency Powers? John Dewey, Carl Schmitt, and the Democratic Politics of Exception,” in States of Exception in American History, Gary Gerstle and Joel Isaac, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
  • 2019. “Social Freedom, Democracy and the Political: Three Reflections on Axel Honneth’s Idea of Socialism” (with William J. Novak and James T. Sparrow), The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, Spring 2019.
  • 2019. “Introduction” (with Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins) to Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond (Rowman Littlefield)
  • 2018. “Pierre Rosanvallon’s Pragmatic Turn” in Pierre Rosanvallon’s Interdisciplinary Political Thought (U Bielefeld Press)
  • 2018. Introduction to Pierre Rosanvallon’s Political Thought (with Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Franziska Martinsen, Daniel Schulz) in Pierre Rosanvallon’s Interdisciplinary Political Thought, co-editor with Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Franziska Martinsen, Daniel Schulz (University of Bielefeld Press)
  • 2018. “From the Aristocratic to the Democratic State: Louis Blanc and the Origins of the Modern State.” Louis XIV: 300 ans après. Charles-Edouard Levillain ed. Paris: Honoré Champion
  • 2018. “Élie Halévy ou les défis de l’État démocratique.” Autour d’Elie Halévy et l’Ère des tyrannies, Vincent Duclert et Marie Scot, eds., Paris: Belles Lettres.
  • 2017. “Democratic States of Unexception: Toward a New Genealogy of the American Political,” (with William J. Novak and James T. Sparrow) in The Many Hands of the State, Ann Orloff and Kimberly Morgan, eds. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2016. “A Fiscal Revolution: Statecraft in France’s Early Third Republic” American Historical Review. October 2016. 
  • 2016. “We will always have Paris: Scales of Political Culture in Paris, 1900-1940.” Review Essay, The Journal of World History.
  • 2016. “Neoliberalism and the Crisis of Democratic Theory,” In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Anti-totalitarianism and Intellectual Politics since the 1950s (New York: Palgrave).
  • 2016. “New Perspectives on France’s ‘Liberal Moment’” (with Iain Stewart) In Search of the Liberal Moment: Democracy, Anti-totalitarianism and Intellectual Politics in Post-War France (New York: Palgrave).
  • 2015. “Time after Time: Narratives of the Longue Durée in the Anthropocene” Transatlantica, 1/2015
  • 2015. “Beyond Stateless Democracy” (with James T. Sparrow and William Novak), The Tocqueville Review, Spring, vol 36, no 1.
  • 2015. “Foucault and the State,” The Tocqueville Review, Spring, vol 36, no 1.
  • 2015. “Introduction: Boundaries of the State in US History” (with James T. Sparrow and William Novak) in Boundaries of the State in U.S. History (University of Chicago Press).
  • 2015. “Beyond Tocqueville’s Myth: Rethinking Models of the Liberal State” in Boundaries of the State in U.S. History (University of Chicago Press)
  • 2014. “Ces nations façonnées par les empires et la globalization. Réécrire le récit national du XIXe siècle aujourd’hui” published in English under the title, “The Nation-States that Globalization and Empires Made: Writing the Nineteenth-Century National Narrative Today.” Annales. Histoire et Sciences Sociales. 2014 (1): pp. 117-137.
  • 2013. “Emancipation, and the Creation of Modern Liberal States in America and France,” (with William Novak) The Journal of the Civil War Era, Vol. 3, No 4, December 2013, pp. 467-500.
  • 2013 “An American Model for French Liberalism: The State of Exception in Edouard Laboulaye’s Constitutional Thought.” The Journal of Modern History 4 (2013): pp 739-771.
  • 2012. “Toward a History of the Democratic State,” (with William Novak and James Sparrow) The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, Vol. XXXIII, n° 2.
  • 2012. “The Liberal Origins of Louis Blanc’s Republican State,” The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville, Vol. XXXIII, n° 2.
  • 2011. “Un Moment Atlantique ? : La Fête de la Fédération et les réseaux franco-américains sous la Révolution française,” La Fête de la Fédération. Du 14 juillet 1790. Histoire et héritage. Georges-Henri Soutou, ed. with E. Leroy Ladurie.
  • 2010.  “The Infinite Space of the Particular: Planning the American City in the work of Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham and Frank Lloyd Wright,” Cultural Transformations in the English Speaking World (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press), pp 152-169.
  • 2009.  “Définir un intérêt particulier parisien : les élections et l’administration municipal de Paris au milieu du XIXe siècle,” Annales. Histoire et Sciences Sociales, no 2, pp 407-433.
  • 2009. “The Site of Generality: Placing Chicago in the American Regime of Commensurability” in Paris-Chicago: Urban Cultures in Comparative Perspective. Cahiers Parisiens. Vol. 5 (University of Chicago-Paris).
  • 2009.  “Edouard Laboulaye et la statue de la liberté” La lettre du Collège de France, no 26.
  • 2009.  “The French Foundations of the American Capital: Eighteenth-Century French Political Theory and the Creation of Washington D.C.” La France en Amérique. Susanne Berthier-Foglar, ed. (Éditions de l'université de Savoie), pp 187-205.
  • 200.9  “Je peins le passage: Police Power in Foucault’s 1978-1979 Collège de France lectures,” Carceral Notebooks, Bernard Harcourt, ed. vol 4, pp 131-137.
  • 2008.  “Placing Sovereignty: Democratic capitals as an histoire-problème,” La Revue Tocqueville, Vol. XXIX, n° 2, pp 95-110.
  • 2007.  “A Question of Life or Death: Administrative Bodies and Administrating Bodies in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” in Fields of Expertise: A Comparative History of Expert Procedures in Paris and London, 1600 to present. C. Rabier, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press), pp. 291-315.
  • 2005.  “Locating the Center: Confining and Defining the Capital through the Parisian Fortifications.” Special issue on Centers and Peripheries. Nottingham French Studies. February, pp 20-37.
  • 2002. Pamphlets and Periodicals from the Revolution of 1848. Interactive and fully searchable on-line database of over 200 rare and previously unavailable newspapers and pamphlets from the 1848 Revolution in France
History and literature
  • Manuscript in progress Veridiction and the Liberal State of Exception in Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor
  • 2008.  “Between Authorship and Agency: Democracy as History in the Work of George Bancroft,” Revue française d’études américaines, no. 118, vol. 4, pp 49-66.
  • 2008.  “Valuable Values: Capitalizing on Representation in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie,” L’Argent, Presses Universitaires de Lille.
  • 2006. “History and the Strength of the American Republic in Nathaniel Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter,” Philippe Jaworski, ed. Hawthorne et la pensée du roman. Dix études sur la Lettre écarlate. Paris: Michel Houdiard.
Contemporary urban studies
  • 2014. (with DellaPosta, D.J., Clark, T.N., and Dini, A.) “Civic and Arts Activities Can Energize Politics, France and Europe” in T.N. Clark (ed.) Can Tocqueville  Karaoke? Global Contrasts of Citizen Participation, the Arts, and Development, Research in Urban Policy, volume 11, Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald
  • Manuscript in progress (with Scott Salmon) Downscaling Competitive City Discourse: Local Forces in the Age of Global Megaevents.
  • Forthcoming (with Cédric Fériel) “La petite traversée du Grand Paris. Vers l’appréhension globale des “ambiances” dans l’espace métropolitain". Cahiers de recherche de l’institut pour la ville et le commerce, Finalist (1 of 3) for a prize of 2500 euros for best article by the Institut pour la ville et le commerce.
  • 2013. “An Archaeology of the Parisian Underground” in Paris-Amsterdam Underground: Essays on Cultural Resistance, Subversion, and Diversion, Andrew Hussey and Christophe Linder, eds. (University of Amsterdam Press).
  • 2012. “What’s in the Fridge? Counter-Democratic Mobilization in Post-Industrial Urban ‘Cultural’ Development” The Politics of Urban Cultural Policy. Daniel Silver and Carl Grodach, eds. (Routledge).
  • 2012. (lead author with Terry Clark) “La politique culturelle et la démocratie métropolitaine à l’age de la defiance.” Politiques culturelles 21 : Débats et enjeux en Europe. Guy Saez et Jean-Pierre Saez, dir. (Editions de la découverte).
  • 2012. (with Mathias Rouet) “The Grand Paris: Cultural Milieu in the Process of Metropolitanization.” Cultural Policy and Governance in a New Metropolitan Age. Cultures and Globalization Series, vol 5. Helmut Annheier, Yudhishthir Raj Isser, and Michael Hoelscher, eds. (Sage Publications).
  • 2011. Is There a Place for More Molière? Cultural Planning and Metropolitan Politics in the Grand Paris Territorio.
  • 2011. “Anting or the Antinomies of Ex-urban Shanghai” Public. Art Culture Ideas, vol 43, Special issue on the suburbs. Spring 2011.
  • 2010. (lead author with Terry Clark) “Villes créatives ou voisinages dynamiques? Développement métropolitain et ambiances urbaines.” La Revue des politiques culturelles, pp 44-49.
Encyclopedia articles
  • 2012. "Paris". Global Studies Encyclopedia. Sage Publications.
  • 2009. "1848". Encyclopedia of Revolutions, Uprisings and Popular Movements. Blackwell.
  • 2009. "Hotel de Ville". Encyclopedia of Revolutions, Uprisings and Popular Movements. Blackwell.
  • 2005. "Duvergier de Hauranne, Ernest". Encyclopedia of French-American Relations. Ed. Bill Marshall. ABC-Clio.
Book reviews and review essays
  • 2020. La modernité désenchanté. Relire l’histoire du XIXe siècle français by Emmanuel Fureix and François Jarrige (Paris : La Découverte, 2015), Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales.
  • 2019. Moralizing the Market: How Gaullist France Embraced the US Model of Securities Regulation by Yves-Marie Péréon (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), American Historical Review.
  • 2019. Paris Ville Ouvrière by Maurizio Gribaudi (Paris: La Découverte, 2014), Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales.
  • 2018. The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century by Jurgen Osterhammel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales
  • 2018. Transparency in Postwar France: A Critical History of the Present by Stefanos Geroulanos (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2017), H-Diplo
  • 2018. The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics by Mark Lilla, Tocqueville21
  • 2018. Toward Democracy by James T. Kloppenberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) Journal of Politics, Ideology and Religion
  • 2016. Gold and Freedom: The Political Economy of Reconstruction, by Nicolas Barreyre (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015). Le Mouvement social
  • 2016. The Making of Tocqueville’s America: Law and Association in the Early United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) by Kevin Butterfield, Journal of Interdisciplinary History.
  • “Houellebecq. Deformed Symmetries,” review of Michel Houellebecq, Soumission, Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • Jean-Numa Ducange, La Révolution française et l’histoire du monde. Deux siècles de débats historiques et politiques 1815-1991, Paris, Armand Colin, 2014, 634 p. 302.
  • Jean JAURES, Histoire socialiste de la Révolution française, Michel BIARD, Jean-Numa DUCANGE, eds, (Paris, Les éditions sociales, 2014) Cahiers Jaurès
  • Jonathan M. House, Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848 (New York : NYU Press, 2014) The Journal of Modern History
  • Pierre-Xavier Boyer, Angleterre et Amérique dans l’histoire institutionnelle française, 1789-1958 (Paris: CNRS, 2012) Cahiers Jaurès
  • 2014. Mona Ozouf, Jules Ferry. La liberté et la tradition (Paris : Gallimard, 2014) Cahiers Jaurès
  • 2014. Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt and William Max Nelson, The French Revolution in Global Perspective (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2012) French History
  • 2013. Quentin Deluermoz. Les Policiers dans la ville. La construction d'un ordre public à Paris (1854-1914) (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2012) H-France
  • 2013. Rémy Cazals, ed. Le mouvement Saint-Simonien. De Sorèze à l’Égypte (Éditions Midi-Pyrénées, 2012) Cahiers Jaurès
  • 2013. Charles Rearick. Paris Dreams, Paris Memories: The City and its Mystique (Stanford University Press, 2011) French History.
  • 2013. Quentin Deluermoz. Les Policiers dans la ville. La construction d'un ordre public à Paris (1854-1914) (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2012) H-France
  • 2013. Rémy Cazals, ed. "Le mouvement Saint-Simonien. De Sorèze à l’Égypte" (Éditions Midi-Pyrénées, 2012) Cahiers Jaurès
  • 2013. Julian Wright and H.S. Jones, eds., Pluralism and the Idea of the Republic in France (Palgrave, 2012) Cahiers Jaurès.
  • 2012. James T. Sparrow. "The Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). La vie des idées.
  • 2012. Bruno Verlet, "Des pionniers au Texas (1850-1880)" (Paris: Verlet, 2011) Cahiers Jaurès.
  • 2012. Jean-Fabien Spitz. Louis Blanc. "Textes Politiques (1839-1852)" (Paris: Bord de l’eau/Bibliothèque Républicaine, 2011) Cahiers Jaurès.
  • 2012. Gilles Malandain. "L’introuvable complot. Attentant, enquête et rumeur dans la France de la Restauration" (Paris: EHESS, 2011) Cahiers Jaurès.
  • 2011. Nathalie Jakobowicz. 1830. Le peuple de Paris. Révolution et représentations sociales (Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009). Annales. Histoires et Sciences Sociales.
  • 2011. J. A. W. Gunn. "When the French Tried to Be British: Party, Opposition, and the Quest for Civil Disagreement, 1814-1848" (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009). Journal of Modern History.
  • 2011. Jean-Numa Ducange, ed. Jean Jaurès-Karl Kautsky: Socialisme et Révolution Française (préface de Michelle Vovelle) (Paris: Demopolis, 2010). Cahiers Jean Jaurès
  • 2010. Jacqueline Lalouette. "Les mots de 1848" (Presses Universitaires de Mirail, 2007). Cahiers Jean Jaurès
  • 2010. Fabien Cardoni. "La garde républicaine d’une République à l’autre (1848-1871)", (Presses universitaires de Rennes/Service historique de la Défense, 2008). Cahiers Jean Jaures.
  • 2010. John Agnew. "Globalization and Sovereignty" (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). La vie des idées,
  • 2010. Casey Harrison. "The Stonemasons of the Creuse in Nineteenth-Century Paris" (Cranbury: Associated University Press, 2008). Journal of Modern History.
  • 2009. Bernard Marchand. Les ennemis de Paris. "La haine de la grande ville des Lumières à nos jours" (Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2009). Cahiers Jean Jaurès, 3-4 (N° 193-194).
  • 2009. Michelle Riot-Sarcey et Maurizio Gribaudi. "1848, la Révolution oubliée" (Paris : La Decouverte, 2008). Cahiers Jean Jaurès, 3-4 (N° 193-194).
  • 2009. Larry M. Bartels. "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). La vie des idées,
  • 2008. Nicholas Papayanis. "Planning Before Haussmann" (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). European History Quarterly, vol 38.
  • 2007. Yannick Marec, ed. Villes en crise? Les politiques municipales face aux pathologies urbaines (fin XVIIIe - fin XXe siècle) (Creaphis, 2007). H-France.
Article and lecture translations
  • 2008.  Pierre Rosanvallon, “Democratic Universalism as a Historical Problem,”
  • 2006. Monique David-Ménard. “Democracy and Subjectivity.” Paper given for Trope, Affect, and Democratic Subjectivity at the Center for Global Culture and Communication, Northwestern University.
  • 2006. Pierre Rosanvallon. The Democracy of Distrust: Institutions and Practices of Counter-Politics in Historical Perspective. Cours au Collège de France given for the Sealy Lectures at Cambridge University.
  • 2004. Jean-Luc Nancy. “The Technique of the Present.” Trans. Agnès Derail-Imbert and Stephen W. Sawyer. In On Kawara: Paintings of 40 Years. New York: David Werner.

Research Areas

* Democracy, democratization, liberalism 

* Transformations of the modern state, state-civil society relations 

* Urban policy, Cultural planning 

* Urban social and political movements 

* European political theory, Political thought 

* French and European politics

Curriculum Vitae