Samuel Moyn

Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law

Areeda 331

617-496-4470

Assistant: Melinda Eakin / 617-496-2050

Biography

Samuel Moyn is Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History at Harvard University.

He received a doctorate in modern European history from the University of California-Berkeley in 2000 and a law degree from Harvard University in 2001. He spent thirteen years in the Columbia University history department, where he was most recently James Bryce Professor of European Legal History.

He has written several books in his fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Harvard University Press, 2010), and edited or coedited a number of others. His new book, based on Mellon Distinguished Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2014, is Christian Human Rights (2015).

His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective. In intellectual history, he has worked on a diverse range of subjects, especially twentieth-century European moral and political theory.

He is a coeditor of the journal Humanity. He helps with several book series: the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought, the Cambridge University Press "Human Rights in History" series, and the University of Pennsylvania Press "Intellectual History of the Modern Age" series. For seven years, he served as coeditor of Modern Intellectual History. He serves on the editorial boards of Constellations, Global Intellectual History, the Historical Journal, the Journal of the History of International Law, and Modern Judaism.

Areas of Interest

Samuel Moyn, Knowledge and Politics in International Law, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 2164 (2016)(reviewing David W. Kennedy, A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Global Expertise Shape Global Political Economy (2016)).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Law & Political Theory
,
Legal Theory & Philosophy
Type: Article
Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights (Univ. Pa. Press 2015).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Religion & Law
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
"In Christian Human Rights, Samuel Moyn asserts that the rise of human rights after World War II was prefigured and inspired by a defense of the dignity of the human person that first arose in Christian churches and religious thought in the years just prior to the outbreak of the war....By focusing on the 1930s and 1940s, Moyn demonstrates how the language of human rights was separated from the secular heritage of the French Revolution and put to use by postwar democracies governed by Christian parties, which reinvented them to impose moral constraints on individuals, support conservative family structures, and preserve existing social hierarchies. The book ends with a provocative chapter that traces contemporary European struggles to assimilate Muslim immigrants to the continent's legacy of Christian human rights"--Jacket.
Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Harvard Univ. Press 2010).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
In this pioneering book, Samuel Moyn elevates that extraordinary transformation to center stage and asks what it reveals about the ideal’s troubled present and uncertain future.
Samuel Moyn, Beyond Liberal Internationalism, 64 Dissent116 (2017).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
International Law
Type: Article
Samuel Moyn, From Antiwar Politics to Antitorture Politics, in Law and War 154 (Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas & Martha Merrill Umphrey eds., 2014).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Samuel Moyn, Human Rights and the Uses of History (Verso 2014).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
"What are the origins of human rights? This question, rarely asked before the end of the Cold War, has in recent years become a major focus of historical and ideological strife. In this sequence of reflective and critical studies, Samuel Moyn engages with some of the leading interpreters of human rights, thinkers who have been creating a field from scratch without due reflection on the local and temporal contexts of the stories they are telling". --Publisher.
Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (Darrin M. McMahon & Samuel Moyn eds., 2014).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Legal Theory & Philosophy
,
European Law
Type: Book
Abstract
This book is a collection of essays by leading practitioners of modern European intellectual history, reflecting on the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the field.
The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s (Jan Eckel & Samuel Moyn eds., 2014).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
"Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the human rights movement achieved unprecedented global prominence. Amnesty International attained striking visibility with its Campaign Against Torture; Soviet dissidents attracted a worldwide audience for their heroism in facing down a totalitarian state; the Helsinki Accords were signed, incorporating a "third basket" of human rights principles; and the Carter administration formally gave the United States a human rights policy. The Breakthrough is the first collection to examine this decisive era as a whole, tracing key developments in both Western and non-Western engagement with human rights and placing new emphasis on the role of human rights in the international history of the past century."-- book jacket.
Global Intellectual History (Samuel Moyn & Andrew Sartori eds., 2013).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Legal Theory & Philosophy
,
International Law
Type: Book
Abstract
Where do ideas fit into historical accounts that take an expansive, global view of human movements and events? Teaching scholars of intellectual history to incorporate transnational perspectives into their work, while also recommending how to confront the challenges and controversies that may arise, this original resource explains the concepts, concerns, practice, and promise of "global intellectual history," featuring essays by leading scholars on various approaches that are taking shape across the discipline. The contributors to Global Intellectual History explore the different ways in which one can think about the production, dissemination, and circulation of "global" ideas and ask whether global intellectual history can indeed produce legitimate narratives. They discuss how intellectuals and ideas fit within current conceptions of global frames and processes of globalization and protoglobalization, and they distinguish between ideas of the global and those of the transnational, identifying what each contributes to intellectual history.
Samuel Moyn, The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity, in Understanding Human Dignity 95 (Christopher McCrudden ed., 2013).
Categories:
Constitutional Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
,
Religion
Type: Book
Abstract
n their 1937 constitution, the Irish gave human dignity foundational placement, as a religiously-inspired root concept connected (as in the later West German case of 1949) to the subordination of the otherwise sovereign democratic polity to God, and for many to the moral constraints of his natural law. This essay takes up this neglected but revealing fact. It is critical that dignity came to the world as part of the establishment of an alternative, religious constitutionalism; this newer constitutionalism crystallized precisely in the 1930s when it seemed to many as if secular liberalism had no future. To understand the original meaning of constitutional dignity, in summary, it is necessary to attend to the confusing years just before war and genocide, for it was a response to different circumstances. The most illuminating context for the move to constitutional dignity, it turns out, is not in the shocked conscience “after Auschwitz” but in political Catholicism before it, which remained its dominant framework for decades, when the Holocaust still did not figure in moral consciousness. Focusing on dignity's Irish constitutionalization shows why this matters.
Samuel Moyn, Do Human Rights Treaties Make Enough of a Difference?, in The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law 329 (Conor Gearty & Costas Douzinas eds., 2012).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
,
Treaties & International Agreements
Type: Book
Abstract
Captures the essence of the multi-layered subject of human rights law in a way that is authoritative, critical and scholarly.
Pierre Rosanvallon, Democracy Past and Future (Samuel Moyn ed., Columbia Univ. Press 2006).
Categories:
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Politics & Political Theory
Type: Book
Abstract
Democracy Past and Future is the first English-language collection of Pierre Rosanvallon's most important essays on the historical origins, contemporary difficulties, and future prospects of democratic life. One of Europe's leading political thinkers, Rosanvallon proposes in these essays new readings of the history, aims, and possibilities of democratic theory and practice, and provides unique theoretical understandings of key moments in democracy's trajectory, from the French Revolution and the struggles for universal suffrage to European unification and the crises of the present. In so doing, he lays out an influential new theory of how to write the history of politics. Rosanvallon's historical and philosophical approach examines the "pathologies" that have curtailed democracy's potential and challenges the antitotalitarian liberalism that has dominated recent political thought. All in all, he adroitly combines historical and theoretical analysis with an insistence on the need for a new form of democracy. Above all, he asks what democracy means when the people rule but are nowhere to be found. Throughout his career, Rosanvallon has resisted simple categorization. Rosanvallon was originally known as a primary theorist of the "second left", which hoped to stake out a non-Marxist progressive alternative to the irresistible appeal of revolutionary politics. In fact, Rosanvallon revived the theory of "civil society" even before its usage by East European dissidents made it globally popular as a non-statist politics of freedom and pluralism. His ideas have been shaped by a variety of influences, ranging from his work with an influential French union to his teachers François Furet and Claude Lefort. Well known throughout Europe as a historian, political theorist, social critic, and public intellectual, Pierre Rosanvallon was recently elected to a professorship at the Collège de France, Paris, a position held at various times by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bourdieu. Democracy Past and Future begins with Rosanvallon's groundbreaking and synthetic lecture that he delivered upon joining this institution. Throughout the volume, Rosanvallon illuminates and invigorates contemporary political and democratic thought.
Samuel Moyn, Human Rights, Not So Pure Anymore, N.Y. Times, May 13, 2012, at SR5.
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Human Rights Law
Type: News
Samuel Moyn, Of Deserts and Promised Lands: The Dream of Global Justice, The Nation, Mar. 19, 2012, at 33 (reviewing Jenny S. Martinez, The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law (2012), and Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (2011)).
Categories:
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Courts
Type: Article
The Modernist Imagination: Intellectual History and Critical Theory: Essays in Honor of Martin Jay (Warren Breckman, Peter E. Gordon, A. Dirk Moses, Samuel Moyn & Elliot Neaman eds., 2011).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Critical Legal Studies
Type: Book
Samuel Moyn, A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France (Brandeis Univ. Press 2005).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Type: Book
Abstract
A provocative study of a French Holocaust controversy of the 1960s and the dynamics of postwar memory.
Samuel Moyn, Origins of the Other: Emmanuel Levinas Between Revelation and Ethics (Cornell Univ. Press 2005).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Legal Theory & Philosophy
Type: Book
Abstract
"The French-Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) is today remembered as the central moralist of the twentieth century and remains a major presence in the contemporary humanities. In this book, written in lucid and jargon-free prose, Samuel Moyn provides a first and controversial history of the makings of his thought, and especially of his trademark concept of "the other."" "Restoring Levinas to the intellectually rich and combative atmosphere of interwar Europe, Origins of the Other overturns a number of views that have attained almost stereotypical familiarity. In a careful overview of Levinas's career, Moyn documents the philosopher's early allegiance to the great German thinker Martin Heidegger. Showing that Levinas crafted an idiosyncratic vision of Judaism, rather than returning to any traditional source, Moyn makes the startling suggestion that Protestant theology, as it spread across the continent in new forms, may have been the most plausible source of Levinas's core concept. In Origins of the Other, Moyn offers new readings of the work of a host of crucial thinkers, such as Hannah Arendt, Karl Barth, Karl Lowith, Gabriel Marcel, Franz Rosenzweig, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jean Wahl, who help explain why Levinas's thought evolved as it did."--Jacket.

Education History

Current Courses

Course Catalog View

Areeda 331

617-496-4470

Assistant: Melinda Eakin / 617-496-2050