Dienstag, Joshua Foa 1965-

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Dienstag, Joshua Foa 1965-


Born 1965. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1986; Princeton University, M.A., 1989, Ph.D., 1993.


Office—Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles, 4289 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Virginia, Charlottesville, assistant professor, 1992-98, associate professor, 1998-2005, associate department chair, 2000-03; University of California, Los Angeles, professor of political science, 2005—.


Phi Beta Kappa.


American Council of Learned Societies, fellow, 2003-04; Charlotte W. Newcombe fellow, 1991-92; Center on Constitutional Government at Harvard University, fellow, 1993-94; Princeton Society of Fellows, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1991-92.


‘Dancing in Chains’: Narrative and Memory in Political Theory, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1997.

Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2006.

Contributor to academic journals, including American Political Science Review, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Polity, Journal of Politics, History & Memory, and Review of Politics.


Joshua Foa Dienstag is a political scientist with an interest in European political thinking between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Dienstag's other academic interests include the founding of the United States, Cervantes, and Wittgenstein. After completing his Ph.D. at Princeton University, he taught at the University of Virginia for thirteen years before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2006, Dienstag published Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit, in an attempt to describe and justify the values of pessimistic thinking and the history of how it came out of favor in the twentieth century. Notable pessimists, including Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and E.M. Cioran, and their rationale for approaching life in such a way are discussed as well. This is more than an academic inquiry, however, as Dienstag explained to Ajay Singh in a UCLA Today interview. Dienstag encourages his family to be pessimistic, saying: "I suggest we try to live without expectations, which is different from living without hopes and dreams. Expectations are when you think the world is arranged for your benefit and therefore you've got something coming to you."

Despite the irony, reviews of Pessimism were mostly positive. Leon H. Brody, writing in Library Journal, commented that the topic "is handled in … a comprehensive, readable, and thought-provoking manner." In the Weekly Standard, Lawrence Klepp concluded that the book is "densely argued, but always lively and engaging."



American Political Science Review, March 1, 1998, Jonathan N. Badger, review of ‘Dancing in Chains’: Narrative and Memory in Political Theory, p. 199.

Dallas Morning News, November 5, 2006, Daniel Larison, "Using the Power of Negative Thinking."

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Leon H. Brody, review of Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit, p. 150.

New York Times, August 28, 2006, Adam Cohen, "What Is the Latest Thing to Be Discouraged About? The Rise of Pessimism," p. 14.

UCLA Today, February 21, 2007, Ajay Singh, "10 Questions for Joshua Foa Dienstag."

Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2006, Joseph Epstein, "The Upbeat Pessimist," p. W1.

Weekly Standard, December 25, 2006, Lawrence Klepp, review of Pessimism.


University of California Los Angeles, Department of Political Science Web site,http://www.polisci.ucla.edu/ (July 13, 2007), author profile.

University of Virginia, Department of Politics Web site,http://www.virginia.edu/politics/ (July 13, 2007), author profile.