Miller, James

Miller, James E.

James Miller
Ph.D., Brandeis University, 1975
Professor of Political Science and Liberal Studies


James Miller is Chair of Liberal Studies and Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research. His latest book, Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, has just been published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. The book's introduction and the chapter on Seneca can be found here. To read a review, please click here.

He is the author of five other books: Flowers in the Dustbin: the Rise of Rock & Roll, 1947-1977, winner of an ASCAP-Deems Taylor award and a Ralph Gleason BMI award for best music book of 1999; The Passion of Michel Foucault (1993), an interpretive essay on the life of the French philosopher and a National Book Critics Circle Finalist for General Nonfiction, which has been translated into nine languages; "Democracy is in the Streets": From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago (1987), an account of the American student movement of the 1960s, also a National Book Critics Circle Finalist for General Nonfiction and recently recommended by Michael Kazin as one of the 5 essential books to understand the roots of the Occupy Wall Street movement (to read the article, please click here); Rousseau: Dreamer of Democracy (1984), a study of the origins of modern democracy; and History and Human Existence - From Marx to Merleau-Ponty, an analysis of Marx and the French existentialists.

The original editor of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (1976), he has written about music since the 1960s, when one of his early record reviews appeared in the third issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Subsequent pieces on music have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times and Newsweek, where he was a book reviewer and pop music critic between 1981 and 1990. Pieces on philosophy and history have appeared in The London Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review. In 2000, the magazine Lingua Franca published his best-known essay, "Is Bad Writing Necessary? George Orwell, Theodor Adorno, and the Politics of Language."

Besides publishing in such peer-reviewed academic journals as History and Theory and Political Theory, he has contributed to a variety of reference works, from Encyclopedia Britannica and A New Literary History of America, published by Harvard in 2009, to the Dictionnaire de philosophie morale edited by Monique Canto-Sperber in 1996.

From 2000 to 2008, he edited Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, an NEH Fellow twice, and in 2006-2007 he was a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. A native of Chicago, he was educated at Pomona College in California, and at Brandeis University, where he received a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas in 1976.

Recent Publications:
Office Location:
Room 712, 6 East 16th Street
Office Hours:
Phone Number/Extension:
212-229-2747, ext. 3027


Research Interests:
Philosophy as a way of life; democracy in theory and practice; social movements; popular culture; intellectual history, eighteenth century to the present; radical social theory; history of political philosophy.
Recent Presentations/Exhibits:

"Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche" Talk delivered at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 27, 2010 

Forthcoming: The first annual New School Arts Festival, Noir Now.
April 2011

The term "noir" was coined in 1946 by a French film critic who, viewing some American films for the first time after World War II - The Maltese Falcon; Double Indemnity; Laura; and Murder, My Sweet - focused on their similarities, and labeled what he saw noir, or "black."

Noir thus became the name for a genre of morally-ambiguous crime films (directed by John Huston and Billy Wilder, among others) and the sometimes frankly nihilistic novels that inspired them (written by Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain,
among others). Yet with the passage of time, it has become ever clearer that noir is not just a matter of moody lighting and cynical gunplay. From our own standpoint, the fearful sensibility at play in noir is as elemental as classical tragedy - and as contemporary as a new film by the Coen Brothers, Todd Haynes or Guy Maddin.

Today one even hears talk of noir fashion, noir design, noir poetry, noir comics - the list goes on. So what if anything does this French adjective, so promiscuously deployed, actually mean? One can start with a set of evocative and emblematic phrases: "darkness visible," "the imp of the perverse," "the naked city," "the killer inside me." But to discover more about what noir means today, the New School presents a one week arts festival, April 1 - 8, featuring a variety of art exhibits, theater productions, concerts, screenings of films, and free public events featuring Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand; directors Guy Maddin and Todd Haynes; jazz guitarist Marc Ribot; composer Paul Moravec; playwright and graphic novelist Ben Katchor; poets Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, and Robert Polito; novelist Mary Gaitskill, cultural critics Mary Haskell, Greil Marcus, Luc Sante, Susie Linfield, and James Naremore; and a variety of new plays and art works by New School students at Parsons, in Media Studies, and throughout the University.

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