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Bernard E. Harcourt (born 1963)[1] is an American critical theorist with a specialization in the area of punishment, surveillance, legal and political theory, and political economy. He also does pro-bono legal work on human rights issues.

Bernard E. Harcourt
Born (1963-01-28) January 28, 1963 (age 56)


Harcourt was raised in New York City and attended the Lycée Français de New York.[2] He earned a B.A. degree in political theory from Princeton University in 1984, a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1989[3], and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard in 2000.[3]


As a lawyer, Harcourt has represented inmates on death and those serving life imprisonment without parole. His most notable clients include Walter McMillian[4], and Doyle Lee Hamm[5], whose 2018 execution was called off because an IV line could not be set.

Harcourt is also an academic. He was appointed the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology at University of Chicago in 2003 and elected chairman of the Department of Political Science in 2010.[6] In 2013, he became a chaired professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.[7] Since 2014, he has been the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia University.[8]


Harcourt's writings focus on punishment, social control, legal and political theory, and political economy from a critical, empirical, and social theoretic perspective.

In 2012. he published, The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order which explored the relationship between laissez faire and mass incarceration.[9]

In Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing he challenged evidence for the broken windows theory and critiqued the assumptions of the policing strategy.[10] In Language of the Gun, he develops a post-structuralist theory of social science, arguing that social scientists should embrace the ethical choices they make when they interpret data.[11]

He has also edited works by Michel Foucault in French and English. He is the editor of the French edition of Foucault's 1972 Collège de France lectures on Théories et institutions pénales (published by Gallimard in 2015)[12] and Foucault's 1973 Collège de France lectures on La société punitive (published by Gallimard in 2013).[13] He is the co-editor, with Fabienne Brion, of Foucault's 1981 Louvain lectures Mal faire, dire vrai. Fonction de l'aveu en justice.[a]

In 2016. he published Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age which explores how digital practices have transformed the circulation of power in contemporary society and produced what he refers to as a new "expository society".[14]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2015, Harcourt was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Aix-Marseille University in France for his contributions to contemporary critical thought.[15]

He is also the recipient of the 2009 Gordon J. Laing Prize for his 2007 book, Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing and Punishing in the Actuarial Age.[16]



  1. ^ "LC Online Catalog – Browse Authors". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  2. ^ Stevenson, Bryan (2014). Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780812994537.
  3. ^ a b "About the Director | Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought | Columbia Law School". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  4. ^ "Alabama Releases Man Held On Death Row for Six Years". The New York Times. March 3, 1993.
  5. ^ Gonnerman, Jennifer (2016-09-13). "The Long Defense of the Alabama Death—Row Prisoner Doyle Lee Hamm". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  6. ^ "News | University of Chicago Law School". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  7. ^ "Distinguished Scholar Bernard E. Harcourt Joins Columbia Law School | Columbia Law School". Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  8. ^ "Bernard E. Harcourt | Faculty | Columbia Law School". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  9. ^ Grant, James (2010-12-20). "Price And Punishment: Is there a connection between the ideal of an unregulated economy and a large prison population?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-03-27.
  10. ^ "On GPS: Does broken windows policing work? – CNN Video". 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  11. ^ Massoglia, Michael (2007-03-06). "Language of the Gun: Youth Crime and Public Policy by Bernard Harcourt". Law & Society Review. 41: 253–255. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5893.2007.00297_1.x.
  12. ^ "Foucault's Politics of Truth by Stuart Elden". Berfrois. 2015-06-02. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  13. ^ "Stuart Elden on Foucault's third/eleventh". 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  14. ^ Tenen, Dennis (2016-02-05). "Opt Out". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2016-03-27.
  15. ^ "Professor Bernard E. Harcourt to Be Awarded Honorary Doctorate by University of Aix-Marseille". 2015-11-09. Retrieved 2016-03-27.
  16. ^ "Harcourt Honored with Laing Book Prize". 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2016-03-27.

Select publications

  1. ^ Foucault, Michel; Brion, Fabienne; Harcourt, Bernard E (2013). Mal fare, dir vero: funzione della confessione nella giustizia corso de Lovanio, 1981. ISBN 9788806215514. OCLC 874931529.
       h. Harcourt, Bernard E (2018). The counterrevolution: how our government went to war against its own citizens. ISBN 9781541697287. OCLC 986976453.

       i. Wrong-doing, truth-telling: the function of avowal in justice. University of Chicago Press. 2014. ISBN 9780226257709. OCLC 905163601.
       j. Guns, crime, and punishment in America. New York Univ. Press. 2003. ISBN 978-0814736555. OCLC 845548019.
       k. 2005/2014 – Carceral Notebooks (editor), Vol. 1–10. in Law Enforcement Ethics: Classic and Contemporary Issues. Ed Brian D. Fitch. SAGE Publications, 2013 ISBN 9781483312538

External linksEdit