Political Science


Jeff is a seventh-year Ph.D. candidate in political theory. Their dissertation considers how 20th century political thinkers theorized work refusal—a "weapon of the weak"—as a source of revolutionary strength in the form of the general strike. Jeff was a Collaborative Humanities Fellow at the Cogut Institute in 2019-2020 and served as an Interdisciplinary Opportunities Fellow at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice in 2020-2021. They hold a B.A. from Amherst College and were previously a Junior Fellow in the Energy and Climate program at the Carnegie  Endowment for International Peace.

Job Market Title

The General Strike: Democracy, Revolution, and Refusal


My dissertation draws on historical events and the resources of conceptual and critical political theory to develop an account of the general strike as an action that is not a suspension of politics, but a potentially critical part of democratic politics. Some idealize the general strike and others dismiss it as ineffective but I find in 20th-century political theorists of the general strike a way to think about the contributions of ephemeral events of mass refusal to the construction and maintenance of democratic life and institutions. I draw on W.E.B. Du Bois’s description of enslaved people’s flight from slavery during the U.S. Civil War as a general strike, on Walter Benjamin’s account of the general strike in terms of its refusal of violence, and on Hannah Arendt’s proposal for a republic of councils. This last has been recently taken up by political theorists who prefer her proposal to the idea of a general strike, on the basis of the councils’ putative stability in contrast to the strike’s unpredictability. But I contend that anything like Arendt’s councils will need the generative power of the general strike. Indeed, I argue that her famous separation of labor and work from political action can be read as an appreciation of work refusal’s contribution to politics. In a final chapter, I use each of these conceptualizations of the general strike to assess the work refusals of domestic workers and indentured plantation workers and miners in South Africa. The general strike enacts a distinctive “power of the people” that both supports and undermines the institution-building of popular, democratic power. Though they conceptualize work refusal in distinctive ways, Du Bois, Benjamin, and Arendt invite us to see the general strike as part of a broader politics — a “politics from below” whose aim is to strike at violence with non-violence and to use moments of solidaristic refusal to create something lasting.