Distinguished Scholar Bernard E. Harcourt Joins Columbia Law School

Harcourt's Body of Work Includes Empirical and Theoretical Contributions to Social and Political Thought, Critical Theory, the Political Economy of Punishment, and Penal Law and Procedure

New York, May 7, 2014—Bernard E. Harcourt, one of the nation’s leading scholars of social and political thought, critical theory, the political economy of punishment, and penal law and procedure, will join the Columbia Law School faculty from The University of Chicago on July 1.

Harcourt was the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School for the 2013-2014 academic year, teaching Criminal Law and Liberal Democracies in an Age of Security. His recent work includes pioneering empirical research on asylums and prisons that has rigorously refocused attention on the complex relationship between the institutions. In 2014, he and a team of scholars launched an innovative project investigating the nature of the state and its interactions with citizens in a world of increasing interconnectivity, surveillance, privatization, and globalization. Harcourt’s work on the project, “The State as History and Theory,” focuses on the “carceral state” emerging from our domestic security practices and apparatuses, and the tension between mass incarceration and economic liberalism.
Visiting Professor Bernard E. Harcourt will join the Columbia Law School faculty July 1.
In The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Harvard University Press 2011), Harcourt explores similar issues, tracing the historical link between the ideals of limited government intervention in economics and the belief in the government’s competence and legitimacy in policing and punishing.
Harcourt is also the author of Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience (with W. J. T. Mitchell and Michael Taussig, University of Chicago Press 2013); Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age (University of Chicago Press 2007), which won the Gordon J. Laing Prize; Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy (University of Chicago Press 2005); and Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken-Windows Policing (Harvard University Press 2001).
In 2013, Harcourt edited the French edition of the 1973 lectures delivered by the French philosopher Michel Foucault at the Collège de France, La société punitive (Gallimard), and he co-edited and annotated English and French versions of Foucault’s 1981 lectures Mal faire, dire vrai: Fonction de l’aveu en justice (Wrong-Doing, Truth Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice (University of Chicago Press 2014). Harcourt is currently working with others to edit Foucault’s 1972 lectures, Théories et institutions pénales (Gallimard forthcoming).
This past year, Harcourt was elected to a chair at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Europe’s leading social science institution. He serves as a directeur d’études at EHESS where he holds an appointment as professor. At Chicago, Harcourt was the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Political Science and former chairman of the Department of Political Science.
Harcourt earned his bachelor's degree in political science at Princeton University, his law degree at Harvard Law School, and his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard University. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Charles S. Haight Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and then worked as an attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, representing death row inmates. In September 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta appointed Harcourt as counsel for an Alabama inmate who has been on death row for 26 years. Harcourt recently won a certificate of appealability for his death row client and just filed an appellate brief with the Eleventh Circuit.  

Harcourt also has served on human rights missions in South Africa and Guatemala and has taught at Harvard Law School, New York University Law School, Université Paris X–Nanterre, Université Paris Sud, and Université Paul Cézanne Aix-Marseille III. He was previously on the faculty at the University of Arizona.