Portrait Photograph of Daniel Kapust

Daniel Kapust

Professor of Political Science

College of Letters & Science l Department of Political Science

Daniel Kapust is a Professor of Political Science. He has published widely on ancient, early modern, and modern political thought as well on figures including Cicero, Machiaveli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and late 18th century American thought. He is interested in rhetoric, theories of liberty, American exceptionalism, imperialism, the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates, and related topics.


The Idea of America and the Constitutional Debates
What is America? This question is one of the central issues in the debates over the ratification of the Constitution. Federalists and Anti-Federalists argued not just about whether to adopt the new Constitution, but what America was and what it might be. This presentation traces some of the broad issues in the ratification debates, focusing especially on the different ways that participants imagined the idea of America – past, present, and future.
The Dangers and Possibilities of Political Rhetoric
Politics, for better or worse, is about talking. Candidates seeking office, office holders advancing policies, pundits trying to influence opinion, citizens sharing their views with their representatives: political speech is all around us. Yet even though speech is intimately connected to the promise of politics in America, political speech is brings dangers as well. This presentation focuses on the dangers and possibilities of political rhetoric, focusing especially its place in democratic politics.
The Meaning of Freedom
What does it mean to be free? How should we understand the relationship between individual liberty and collective liberty? Does government impede or promote freedom, individual or collective? These questions are at the center of the American political tradition, and have animated debates since the 1780s. This talk focuses on different ways of thinking about freedom – individual and collective – and its relationship to government.
The Life of Frederick Douglass

The presentation will begin with a brief discussion of Douglass’s life, and then focus on Douglass as a political thinker and actor. Key themes will include the nature of liberty, democracy, and the significance of the American constitution.

Flattery and the History of Political Thought: that glib and oily art

From the Cambridge University Press promotion for his 2018 book:

Flattery is an often overlooked political phenomenon, even though it has interested thinkers from classical Athens to eighteenth-century America. Drawing a distinction between moralistic and strategic flattery, this book offers new interpretations of a range of texts from the history of political thought. Discussing Cicero, Pliny, Castiglione, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Mandeville, Smith, and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates, the book engages and enriches contemporary political theory debates about rhetoric, republicanism, and democratic theory, among other topics. Flattery and the History of Political Thought shows both the historical importance and continued relevance of flattery for political theory. Additionally, the study is interdisciplinary in both subject and approach, engaging classics, literature, rhetoric, and history scholarship; it aims to bring a range of disciplines into conversation with each other as it explores a neglected – and yet important – topic.

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