Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Corey Robin

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Film and Media Studies | Political Science


horror, monstrosity, political theory


This dissertation analyzes the canonical monsters of Western political theory, including Plato's wolf-man, Hobbes's Leviathan and Tocqueville's mechanical mass. It argues that monster theorists - including horror film director George A. Romero, creator of the zombie and its apocalyptic narrative - utilize the horror genre in order to reveal the hidden dysfunctions and unrealized potentials of self and society. The canon features several prison-like heuristics - including Plato's cave, Hobbes's sate of nature, Tocqueville's prison, and Romero's zombie apocalypse - that bring to light the mass enslavement, intellectual dysfunction, appetitive tyranny, and cannibalism of the political subject. Theorists consistently depict cannibal machines - such as Marx's factory and Arendt's concentration camp - that devour unconscious automaton masses. This raises the question: is civilization, as it has been constituted, worth the living death and cannibal consumption that it entails? Monster theorists use the monster not only to reveal our deepest dysfunctions, but also to inspire us to transcend, through various forms of collective rationality, the appetitive tyranny that imprisons humanity.