Melissa A Orlie

Section 1

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Associate Professor Emerita of Political Science
Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies
Associate Professor of Philosophy

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Contact Information

Office Hours

  • Mondays, Wednesdays and by appointment

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Classical, modern, and contemporary political theory
  • Marx, Nietzsche, Freud
  • Democratic theory and practice
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Ecological thinking and practice

Research Description

  • Melissa Orlie's teaching and writing engage tensions and convergences among political, ecological, psychoanalytic and ethical concerns. 

    Orlie is currently finishing a book manuscript entitled The Nietzsche we need now (including chapters on "Nietzsche's new materialism," "Masochism as a developmental achievement," "Making beautiful by learning to love what is necessary" "Wakefulness itself," "Singularly loving earthly life: Becoming lover, parent, land steward" and "Commonly loving earthly life: From modern political economy to ecological commonwealth"). 

    Her next project, Changing Nature and Politics (a number of essays for which are already published or in press), elaborates distinctly democratic and ecological criticisms and alternatives to modern political economy. Drawing upon the impersonal materialism of Nietzsche's most affirmative thinking, Orlie argues we need to confront the disjunctures between the scale of space and time imagined by modern political economy and those required for the cultivation of ecological resilience and political efficacy. 

    Orlie's longest term work in progress, Local Wisdom,  is a collection of essays on thinkers who explain and exemplify the important relationship between wise judgment and the cultivation of intellectual and affective capacities attentive to the singularity of place and time (including essays on Socrates, Machiavelli, Montesquieu and Tocqueville, Darwin, Nietzsche, Simone Weil, D.W. Winnicott, Aldo Leopold, and Wendell Berry). While each figure is well aware that the aim of thinking is to generalize, each also presses us to acknowledge how the singular features of locale effect wise judgment and advisable action. Each figure explores practical ways of incorporating such singularity into meaningful theoretical statements. 


  • B.A. 1984 University of California at Santa Cruz, Department of Politics
  • M.A. 1987 Princeton University, Department of Politics
  • Ph.D. 1991 Princeton University, Department of Politics


  • Classical Political Theory (PS 371 & PS 571)
  • Modern Political Theory (PS 372 & PS 572)
  • Contemporary Political Theory (PS 377 & PS 579)



  • Orlie, Melissa A. Living Ethically, Acting Politically. . Cornell University Press, 1997.

Book Contributions

  • "Recovering the vocation of political theory:Toward an ecological understanding of the political." Radical Futures Past. . Ed. Rom Coles, Mark Reinhardt, and George Shulman. University of Kentucky , 2014.
  • Orlie, Melissa. "Making sense of negative liberty: Berlin’s antidote to political rationalism." Isaiah Berlin and the Politics of Freedom: ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ 50 Years Later. . Ed. Bruce Baum. Routledge, 2013.
  • "For the love of earthly life: Nietzsche’s late aesthetic turn." The Aesthetic Turn in Political Theory. . Ed. Nikolas Kompridis. Continuum, 2013.
  • "Impersonal Matter." New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, Politics. . Ed. Diana Coole and Samantha Frost. Duke University Press, 2010. 116-136.
  • "Charles Taylor and Feminism: From recognition of identity to a politics of the good." Contemporary Philosophy in Focus: Charles Taylor. . Ed. Ruth Abbey. Cambridge University Press, 2004. 140-165.
  • "Political Capitalism and the Consumption of Democracy." Democracy and Vision: Sheldon Wolin and the Vicissitudes of the Political . . Ed. William E. Connolly and Aryeh Botwinick. Princeton University Press, 2001. 138-160.

Journal Articles

  • "There is no alternative." Theory & Event 12.2 (2009):
  • "Mass Support for Power Politics." South Atlantic Quarterly 105.1 (2006): 217-240.
  • "The desire for freedom and the consumption of politics." Philosophy & Social Criticism 28.4 (2002): 395-417.

Research keywords

  • Political Theory, Psychoanalysis, Environmental Philosophy