Sven Altenburger

Biographical Details
Sven Altenburger is Research Associate at the University of Göttingen. His PhD Project is 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.

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 Late Modern America and Germany
My dissertation is based upon the assumption that the three core duties of modern citizenship – taxation, schooling, and military service – are of crucial importance for modern democracies, but that they have not received the historical and theoretical attention they deserve. Thus, the main bulk of my project is dedicated to reconstructing and reconsidering the institutional and ideational shapes of these three duties in America and (proto-) democratic Germany, primarily during the 20th century. I pursue this by reviewing legal regulations, constitutional jurisdiction, commission reports, public political debates, theoretical tracts, and pertinent secondary literature, in particular historical and social scientific works. Building on this institutional and ideational reconstruction, I then make a more general case for the role and value of duties in modern citizenship and democracy. This draws on some of the principles underlying the institutions that originate in early 20th century nation-state-building views of different normative contour (social democratic, social liberal, sozialkonservativ, and socialist).

Selected Papers

  • 'Schooling as Citizen-Making in 20th Century America and Germany', History of Political Ideas Early Career Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, London, 27/11/2019.
  • 'Rethinking American and German Conscription', Fifth Political Theory Graduate Conference, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), 15/3/2019.
  • ''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, 6/6/2015.
  • 'Karl Löwenstein’s Militant Democracy in Relation to Weber and Schmitt', Protecting Liberal Democracy: Normative and Empirical Perspectives, Princeton University/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 29/7/2014.


  • Civic Duties in Modern Democracy (BA Course)
  • 20th Century American Political Thought (BA Course)
  • Introduction to the History of Political Thought (BA Course)
  • Citizenship Theory (MA Course)
  • Republicanism: Historical and Contemporary Theories (BA Course)