Michael’s research is animated by interdisciplinary interests in political theory, ethics, and religion. As a political theorist with experience in practical politics, he is especially interested in excavating insights from ancient and modern thinkers to inform the ethics of citizenship and educate leaders and citizens of character. 

Current Book Project: A Commonwealth of Hope: Reimagining Augustine’s Political Thought

Augustine of Hippo is one of the most influential thinkers in the history of political thought but one of the most contested in contemporary political theory. Many contemporary critics target Augustine’s pessimism, arguing that his fixation on sin and longing for the heavenly city deny the value of this-worldly politics. Rather than challenging this pessimism, many defenders parlay it for their own purposes, recruiting Augustine to chasten political optimism or encourage religious citizens to withdraw from the public square. A Commonwealth of Hope challenges this scholarly consensus by exposing the assumptions that underwrite it. Situating Augustine within his political, rhetorical, and historical contexts and integrating insights from political theory, philosophy, history, and religious studies, this interdisciplinary study offers the first extended analysis of Augustine’s concept of hope. In particular, the study draws on neglected treatises, sermons, and letters to retrieve Augustine’s virtue of hope as a way between vices of presumption and despair, troubling the common dichotomy between optimism and pessimism and highlighting the particular practices needed to cultivate the virtue. By advancing an innovative interpretation of the City of God and attending to Augustine’s implicit political and rhetorical practices, the book also uncovers resources for reconstructing hope as a distinctly civic virtue, enlisting Augustine to show how diverse citizens – both religious and secular – can share common objects of hope, even as they cast their ultimate hopes on different horizons. By illuminating this understudied virtue and engaging critics on their own terms, A Commonwealth of Hope advances a novel vision of Augustine’s political thought while illuminating resources that can inform democratic theory and practice.


“How Might Universities Cultivate Leaders of Character?: Insights from a Leadership and Character Development Program at the University of Oxford” (with Edward Brooks and Jonathan Brant), International Journal of Ethics Education (forthcoming).

Everyday Ethics: Moral Theology and the Practices of Ordinary Life (co-edited with Brian Williams) (Georgetown University Press, forthcoming 2019).

“Augustine and Political Theory,” in T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology, ed. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2019).

“Reimagining Engineering Ethics: From Ethics Education to Character Education” (with Olga Pierrakos, Michael Prentice, Cameron Silverglate, Alana Demaske, and Ryan Smout), 2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings (forthcoming 2019)

Introduction,” Symposium on John Bowlin’s Tolerance among the Virtues, Syndicate (forthcoming 2019).

“Character Education for Social Action: A Conceptual Analysis of the #iwill Campaign” (with Emma Taylor-Collins and Cameron Silverglate), Journal of Social Science Education, 18: 1 (2019), 125-152.

Between Presumption and Despair: Augustine’s Hope for the Commonwealth,” American Political Science Review, 112: 4 (2018), 1036-1049.

Beyond Pessimism: A Structure of Encouragement in Augustine’s City of God,Review of Politics, 80: 4 (2018), 591-624.

Augustine and Republican Liberty: Contextualizing Coercion,” Augustinian Studies, 48: 1/2 (2017), 119-159. 

Ethics for Climate Change Communicators,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communicationed. Matthew C. Nisbet, Shirley S. Ho, Ezra Markowitz, Saffron O’Neill, Mike S. Schäfer, and Jagadish Thaker (Oxford University Press, 2018). *Reprinted in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science (Oxford University Press, 2017). 

“Aristotle on the Ethics of Communicating Climate Change” (with Melissa Lane), in Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, ed. Clare Heyward and Dominic Roser  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 229-254.

Aquinas and the Virtues of Hope: Theological and Democratic,” Focus on Aquinas and the Democratic Virtues, Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 44, No. 2 (June 2016), 300-332.

“A Passion and Its Virtue: Aquinas on Hope and Magnanimity,” in Hope, ed., Ingolf U. Dalferth and Marlene A. Block (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck,  2016), 67-88.

Transformations: Stories of Service (Rhodes College, 2004).

Research in Progress

A Commonwealth of Hope: Reimagining Augustine’s Political Thought (manuscript in progress and invited for full review)

“How Is Virtue Cultivated?: Seven Strategies for Postgraduate Character Development” (with Jonathan Brant and Edward Brooks, under review)

“Cultivating Virtues in Postgraduates: An Empirical Analysis of the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative” (with Jonathan Brant, Emily Burdett, and Edward Brooks, under review)

“Wendell Berry’s Difficult Hope” (in progress for Oxford University Press edited volume on hope)

Cultivating Virtue in the University (co-edited volume with Jonathan Brant in progress)

The Arts of Leading: Perspectives from the Humanities and Liberal Arts (co-edited volume with Edward Brooks in progress)

Augustine and Republican Liberty (manuscript in progress)

Democratic Hope (manuscript in progress)

 Wake Forest Logo