Bernard E. Harcourt (born January 28, 1963) is a critical theorist with a specialization in the area of punishment and political economy. He is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia Law School, previously the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology at the University of Chicago Law School from 2007-2014 and an author. He also founded and edits a critical journal called The Carceral Notebooks.
Harcourt was raised in New York City and attended the Lycée Français de New York. He earned his bachelor's degree in political theory at Princeton University studying under Sheldon S. Wolin. He then attended Harvard Law School where he earned his J.D. in 1989. He later returned to Harvard University to pursue Ph.D. studies in political science, receiving his Ph.D. in June 2000. At Harvard, the chair of Harcourt's dissertation committee was Seyla Benhabib, and he also studied extensively with Richard Tuck and Bonnie Honig.
Harcourt clerked for the Honorable Charles S. Haight, Jr., of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. From 1990 to 1994, Harcourt lived in Montgomery, Alabama and represented death row inmates on direct appeal, in state post-conviction, in federal habeas corpus, and at retrial. He practiced at the Equal Justice Initiative (formerly known as the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center) and continues to represent Alabama death row inmates pro bono. While in Alabama, he represented a number of death row inmates, including an innocent man sentenced to death, Walter McMillian. Harcourt was then appointed Senior Fellow in the Graduate Program at Harvard Law School from 1995 to 1997.
During that time, he also served on human rights missions to South Africa and Guatemala. In South Africa, he assisted the independent Motsuenyane Commission of Enquiry that was appointed by ANC president Nelson Mandela in 1993. 
Harcourt then pursued Ph.D. studies in political theory in the Government Department at Harvard University, obtaining his Ph.D. in 2000.
Harcourt was on the law faculty of the University of Arizona College 1998 to 2002, with a courtesy appointment in the Philosophy Department. He was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School during the 2001-2002 academic year, and at New York University School of Law in the Fall of 2002. He was a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 2007-2008, at the University of Paris X—Nanterre in January through March 2008, and at the Paul Cézanne University Aix-Marseille III in December 2008.
Harcourt was appointed Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology at the University of Chicago Law School in 2007, where he taught from 2003 to 2013. He was chairman of the Department of Political Science from 2010 to 2013. He also served as Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice.
Prof. Bernard Harcourt has been elected in June 2013 to a chair at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and will become a permanent visitor at the research institution.
Since July 1, 2014, Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought at Columbia University.
His writings focus on issues of punishment and political economy from a critical empirical and social theoretic perspective. Most recently he wrote The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Harvard University Press, 2011).
He has also written on the actuarial turn in policing and punishment in Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age (U of Chicago P, 2007) and on youth gun-carrying in Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy (U of Chicago P, 2005).
In Language of the Gun, Harcourt develops a post-structuralist theory of social science. He argues that social scientists need to embrace the ethical choices that they make when they interpret data. He argues for a more transparent and open discussion of those ethical choices, which, he argues, are embedded in the methodological and interpretive decisions that researchers necessarily make in the course of their research.
In The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Harvard UP, 2011), Harcourt explores the paradoxical relationship between laissez faire and mass incarceration.
In "Occupy" (UChicago Press 2013), Harcourt develops the theory of political disobedience that he first articulated in the New York Times.
Harcourt has edited works by Michel Foucault in French and English. He is the editor of the French edition of Foucault's 1973 Collège de France lectures on "La société punitive" published by Gallimard in 2013. He is the co-editor with Fabienne Brion of Michel Foucault's 1981 Louvain lectures, Mal faire, dire vrai. Fonction de l'aveu en justice (in French with Presses Universitaires de Louvain and in English with Chicago University Press).
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Personal website: http://bernardharcourt.com/
Homepage at Columbia University: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt
Social Science Research Network: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=141624
Books and edited volumes
2014 - ed. with Fabienne Brion, Michel Foucault, "Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice," University of Chicago Press
2013 - ed., Michel Foucault, "La société punitive. Cours au Collège de France. 1972-1973," Gallimard
2013 - "Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience," (with W.J.T. Mitchell and Michael Taussig) University of Chicago Press
2012 - ed. with Fabienne Brion, Michel Foucault, "Mal faire, dire vrai. La fonction de l'aveu en justice" [Louvain 1981 lectures] Presses universitaires de Louvain
2011 - The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order, Harvard University Press
2007 - Against Prediction: Punishing and Policing in an Actuarial Age. University of Chicago Press
2006 - L'illusion de l'ordre: Incivilités et violences urbaines: tolérance zéro?, Éditions Descartes
2005 - Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy, University of Chicago Press
2005/2014 – Carceral Notebooks (editor), Vol. 1-10
2003 - Guns, Crime and Punishment in America (editor), New York University Press
2001 - Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing, Harvard University
- According to catalog.loc.gov.
- "Alabama Releases Man Held On Death Row for Six Years". New York Times. March 3, 1993.
- "Bernard Harcourt elected to ranks of leading French research institution". July 10, 2013.
- http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/osjcl/Articles/Volume9_1/Harcourt.pdf http://bernardharcourt.com/documents/harcourt-jls-final-2011.pdf