Bernard E. Harcourt interview on Critique and Praxis

Bernard E. Harcourt is interviewed about his new book Critique and Praxis (Columbia University Press, 2020) here.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A. The times of crisis that we live in, to be frank—that’s what compelled me to write this book. I urgently felt that these crises—global climate change, the rise of authoritarianism in this country, the endless war on terror—call on each and every one of us to address the question: How can we achieve a just society? I originally drafted a shorter first version and published it online in an innovative open access, open review format. But the book needed more work, and I felt that I had to debate the current crises and find ways to address them, especially after the 2016 presidential election.

When I wrote that first draft, I was convinced that we all needed to tell each other our answers to the question, “What is to be done?” Over time, I realized that I could not go around telling others “what must be done.” We are far too aware of relations of power today, and live in a far more self-reflective time. And so, as someone who has litigated death penalty cases and been involved in social movements for decades, I ultimately transformed the inquiry, and turned it back onto myself by asking instead, “What more am I to do?” The result is a much longer, 700-page book, and more autobiographical than I had expected. But it does, ultimately, push hard on our shared responsibility for action. And that, I think, is essential. 

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