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Charles H. T. Lesch

Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Political Science

Charles H. T. Lesch received his Ph.D. in political theory from Harvard University in 2016 and spent two years as a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis.  His first book manuscript, Solidarity in a Secular Age: From Political Theology to Jewish Philosophy, develops a new normative theory of how liberal democracies can achieve social solidarity by drawing from such thinkers as Rousseau, Kant, Habermas, Levinas, Buber, and the novelist George Eliot.  His second book, Who Governs when God Rules? Jewish Theocracy Between Kingship and Democracy (under contract with Cambridge University Press for a new series on Comparative Political Theory), examines the idea of theocracy and its tensions in classical Jewish political thought and beyond.  A third book project probes the impact of messianic ideas on politics and political theory, both historically and today.  He has won awards including Harvard’s Bowdoin Prize in the Humanities, and has been a Mellon/ACLS Fellow, Harvard Presidential Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, and Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellow in Ethics.  At Vanderbilt he teaches courses in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory, including Justice, Modern Political Philosophy, Religion and Politics, and American Political Thought.

Representative publications

  • “Theopolitics Contra Political Theology: Martin Buber’s Biblical Critique of Carl Schmitt.” American Political Science Review, 113:1 (2019), 195-208. Available online.
  • “Democratic Solidarity in a Secular Age?  Habermas and the ‘Linguistification of the Sacred.’” The Journal of Politics, 81:3 (2019), 862-877. Available online
  • “What Undermines Solidarity? Four Approaches and their Implications for Contemporary Political Theory.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 21:5 (2018), 601-615. Invited submission for a special issue on "Solidarity and Public Goods. Available online.
  • “Against Politics: Walter Benjamin on Justice, Judaism, and the Possibility of Ethics.” American Political Science Review, 108:1 (2014): 218-232. Available online.