A Political, Economic, and Social Theory

Bernard E. Harcourt

AB Princeton, JD/PhD Harvard
Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, professor of political science
Columbia University

Liberal democracy is in crisis around the world, unable to address pressing problems such as climate change. There is, however, another path—cooperation democracy. From consumer co-ops to credit unions, worker cooperatives to insurance mutuals, nonprofits to mutual aid, countless examples prove that people working together can extend the ideals of participatory democracy and sustainability into every aspect of their lives. These forms of cooperation do not depend on electoral politics. Instead, they harness the longstanding practices and values of cooperatives: self-determination, democratic participation, equity, solidarity, and respect for the environment.

In this talk, Bernard E. Harcourt offers a transformative theory and practice that builds on worldwide models of successful cooperation. He identifies the most promising forms of cooperative initiatives and then distills their lessons into an integrated framework: Coöperism. This is a political theory grounded on recognition of our interdependence. It is an economic theory that can ensure equitable distribution of wealth. Finally, it is a social theory that replaces the punishment paradigm with a cooperation paradigm.

Harcourt concludes that by drawing on the core values of cooperation and the power of people working together, a new world of cooperation democracy is within our grasp.

Time will be allocated for Q&A.

Cosponsored by:
  • Princeton Club of Washington DC
  • Harvard Club of Washington DC

This program is part of the ColumbiaDC CUP series.


"Bernard Harcourt’s creative and courageous vision of a flexible cooperation democracy takes us far beyond the toxic impasse between conservative deregulation and liberal administrative state policies! His radical participatory democracy in all spheres also captures much of the best of abolitionist projects while remaining rooted in past and present cooperative movements. His marvelous book is badly needed in our decadent times!" Cornel West

Picture1.jpgBernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Columbia University in New York City and a chaired professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. A distinguished critical theorist and legal advocate, he is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Critique & Praxis: A Critical Philosophy of Illusions, Values, and Action (2020), The Counterrevolution (2018), The Illusion of Free Markets (2011), Illusion of Order (2001), and Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience (2013), with W. J. T. Mitchell and Michael Taussig. Harcourt has edited several volumes of lectures of philosopher Michel Foucault in French and English. Harcourt began his legal career representing individuals on Alabama’s death row, working with Bryan Stevenson at what is now the Equal Justice Initiative, in Montgomery, Alabama. He continues to represent pro bono persons sentenced to death and life imprisonment without parole, as well as detained at Guantanamo Bay. In 2019, Harcourt was awarded the New York City Bar Association Norman J. Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award, a lifetime achievement award for his work on behalf of individuals on death row.

CUP Series: This is a new initiative between ColumbiaDC and Columbia University Press to showcase acclaimed and pioneering work by renowned academics, scholars, and researchers published by the Columbia University Press.

May 10, 2023 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Miyako Yerick


Will you come?