Sven Altenburger

Biographical Details
Sven Altenburger is Research Associate at the University of Göttingen. His PhD Project (2017-2022) was jointly supervised by Prof Tine Stein (Göttingen) and Prof Dario Castiglione (Exeter). Sven holds an MA in History of Political Thought from Queen Mary and UCL, and a BA in Politics and History from Kiel University. Prior to pursuing his PhD, he was a Project Manager at the German think tank Das Progressive Zentrum. Sven has held visiting positions at the University of Chicago, the University of Exeter, and the University of Copenhagen. His research has been supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Research Interests

  • 20th Century German and American Political Thought and Political Development
  • Theories of Citizenship and Republicanism
  • Methods in Political Theory and the History of Political Thought, esp. Contextual and Institutional Approaches


PhD Project
Contributing to the Commonwealth. Civic Duties in Modern Germany and the United States

My dissertation inquires, through historical and theoretical means, into modern formulations of the duties of citizenship. More specifically, I analyse and contrast institutional and intellectual formulations of civic duties in Germany and the United States of America, chiefly from the end of the nineteenth century to the most recent past. A particular emphasis is on three core civic duties: taxpaying, serving in the military, and schooling. Building upon my analysis, I reassess the role of duties in modern practices and theories of citizenship. This results in a normative theoretical case for partially duty-based citizenship under contemporary sociopolitical conditions. This case takes issue with influential philosophical and political currents, in particular libertarianism and exclusively rights-based liberalism.

Short Articles (in German)


Selected Papers

  • ‘Social Liberal Tax Philosophies in Germany and America, c. 1880-1910’, Liberalism and/or Socialism: Tensions, Exchanges and Convergences from the 19th Century to Today, University of Lorraine, October 21, 2021.
  • ‘State- (Re-) Building and Civic Duties in Authoritarian and Democratic Contexts – Germany and America, c. 1890-1990’, MANCEPT Workshop: Authoritarian Moments, Manchester Centre for Political Theory, September 10, 2021.
  • ‘Visions of Social Democracy. Ideas and Institutions in Germany and America, c. 1890-1925’, New Work in Intellectual History, International Society for Intellectual History, September 2, 2021.
  • ‘Schooling as Citizen-Making in 20th Century America and Germany’, History of Political Ideas Early Career Seminar, IHR London, November 27, 2019.
  • ‘Rethinking American and German Conscription’, Fifth Political Theory Graduate Conference, LSE, March 15, 2019.
  • ‘Habermas’ Public Sphere: Historical or Theoretical Concept?’, Public and Private in the History of Political Thought. Sixth Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought, University of London, June 6, 2015.
  • ‘Karl Löwenstein’s Militant Democracy in Relation to Weber and Schmitt’, Protecting Liberal Democracy: Normative and Empirical Perspectives, Princeton University/HU Berlin, July 29, 2014.


Teaching (BA Level, in German)

  • Modern Social Theory
  • Theories of State Institutions from Hegel to Skocpol
  • Twentieth Century American Political Thought
  • Introduction to the History of Political Thought
  • Republicanism: Historical and Contemporary Theories