Matthew Mendham
Politics, Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship

Matthew Mendham

Assistant Professor of Politics
"I get to devote my life to tracking down the best and most influential reflections on political life that have ever existed and to discuss them with bright students."
— Matthew Mendham


B.A. Philosophy and History, Taylor University, 2000

M.A. Philosophy, Fordham University, 2003

M.A. Political Science, University of Notre Dame, 2006

Ph.D. Political Science, University of Notre Dame, 2009

Awards, Memberships & Fellowships

Faculty Development Research Grant, Christopher Newport, 2012–2013

Summer Research Grant, John M. Olin Foundation, awarded by Michael P. Zuckert, 2010

Courses Taught

POL 101: U.S. Constitution

POL 416 / 517: Capitalism and Modernity

POL 416 / 729: Rousseau

POL 431 / 510: World Politics

POL 604: Early Modern Political Philosophy

Select Publications

“Rebuking the Enlightenment Establishments, Bourgeois and Aristocratic: Rousseau’s Ambivalence About Leisure.” The Palgrave Handbook of Leisure Theory. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2017. 271-288.

“Rousseau’s Discarded Children: The Panoply of Excuses and the Question of Hypocrisy.” History of European Ideas 41, no. 1 (January 2015): 131-52.

“Rousseau’s Partial Reception of Fénelon: From the Corruptions of Luxury to the Contradictions of Society.” In Fénelon in the Enlightenment: Traditions, Adaptations, Variations: With a preface by Jacques Le Brun. Ed. Christoph Schmitt-Maaß, Stefanie Stockhorst, and Doohwan Ahn. Vol. 178. Rodopi, 2014.

“Dwight Schrute and Servile Ambition: Tacitus and Rousseau on the Lackey Politics of The Office.”  In Homer Simpson Ponders Politics: Popular Culture as Political Theory, ed. Joseph J. Foy and Timothy M. Dale, pp. 75-96.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013.

“Gentle Savages and Fierce Citizens against Civilization: Unraveling Rousseau’s Paradoxes.” American Journal of Political Science 55, no. 1 (January 2011): 170-87.

“Enlightened Gentleness as Soft Indifference: Rousseau’s Critique of Cultural Modernization.” History of Political Thought 31, no. 4 (Winter 2010): 605-37.

“Sympathy for Social Justice.” Review of Civil Passions: Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation, by Sharon R. Krause. Review of Politics 72, no.1 (Winter 2010): 167-69.

“Eudaimonia and Agape in MacIntyre and Kierkegaard’s Works of Love: Beginning Unpolemical Enquiry.” Journal of Religious Ethics 35, no. 4 (December 2007): 621-55.

“Kant and the ‘Distinctively Moral Ought’: A Platonic-Augustinian Defense, Against MacIntyre.” Journal of Religion 87, no. 4 (October 2007): 556-91.


When higher education is functioning fairly well, it draws students to engage with rigorous sources on significant topics. This can feel like a nuisance to students, but it prepares them to deal with the necessities of a complex world and to engage more responsibly in social and civic life. It is only when higher education is functioning unusually well that it fulfills its highest purpose: cultivating an enduring desire for learning, especially about what makes human life worth living and how we can best attain those things at both the individual and communal levels.

At many colleges, even in the iPhone generation, it is not especially difficult to find students who are willing to work hard for the sake of prestige. But it is increasingly rare to find more than a few who are willing to make sacrifices for understanding itself.

A definite strength of Hillsdale is the kind of students we have. They have a strong work ethic and sincere curiosity. In getting to know the Hillsdale students since I arrived here to teach politics in the fall of 2015, it’s clear that many of them chose to be here precisely because it is rigorous and committed to the liberal arts.

This has proven especially evident in my classes. Most humans of every background and profession have a difficult time not discussing what is right and wrong in politics. I get to devote my life to tracking down the best and most influential reflections on political life that have ever existed and to discuss them with bright students. It’s nice work if you can get it.