Radical empiricism represents William James’s central contribution to political thought. In response to critics who view his empiricist metaphysics as distinct from his political thought, this article argues that James’s empiricism shifts the centre of gravity of his anarchic liberalism away from an atomistic vision of the self and towards a relational or molecular individualism. Through a reading of his fabulating essay, ‘On Some Mental Effects of the Earthquake’, this article demonstrates how radical empiricism offers political theory a new way to think about the excesses of affect while resisting the temptation to denigrate the unavoidably affective registers of politics.

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