Lecturers at the Jefferson Educational Society

Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen is a renowned political philosopher and MacArthur Genius with the powerful ability to connect us to complex ideas about democracy, citizenship, and justice. In her new “tour de force” (The New York Review of Books), Our Declaration, she explores America’s founding document and its continuing relevance in our society. A bold, incisive speaker, Allen challenges us to look beyond what we think we already know.

Danielle Allen is a political philosopher widely known for her work on justice and citizenship. She has long been interested in democracy and equality. Early debates about income inequality in the 1990s prompted her to shift her political allegiance from the Republican to the Democratic party. “Fast-forward two decades, two doctorates, one $500,000 ‘genius grant’ and a chair at [the Institute for Advanced Study in] Princeton,” writes the Guardian of Allen’s career, “and her work on contemporary citizenship is helping shape progressive politics on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Allen is currently Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and a professor in Harvard’s Government Department and Graduate School of Education. Allen is also chair of the Mellon Foundation Board and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Previously, Allen worked on President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, contributed to the 2012 UK Labour party’s policy review, founded the Civic Knowledge Project to offer university lectures to Chicago’s underprivileged, and was an instructor for the Odyssey Project (courses for adults at or below the poverty line). In addition, she is a past chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, a former dean of humanities at the University of Chicago, and a former trustee at Princeton University and Amherst College. In 2002, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her ability to combine “the classicist’s careful attention to texts and language with the political theorist’s sophisticated and informed engagement.”

Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), and Our Declaration (2014). She is a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, frequent public lecturer and regular guest on public radio, and has contributed to the Boston Review, Democracy, Cabinet, and The Nation