HUMS 416, The Crisis of Liberalism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am-11:20am

Course Description:

Three faculty – New York Times opinion journalist Ross Douthat, political theorist Bryan Garsten, and historian Sam Moyn – will debate questions at the heart of today’s moral and political controversies. Has individualism become a destructive force in our society? When are markets appropriate and when do they corrupt morals? What are the roots of resurgent forms of nationalism and populism? How can we best understand the recent interest in socialism? Can religions flourish in liberal societies? What about families? How do the twin goals of equality and liberty interact? How did the Cold War, 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008 affect our understanding of liberal democracies? How can we best understand the recent presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump?

Led by:

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Professor Bryan Garsten

Professor Bryan Garsten is a Professor of Political Science and the Humanities, and Chair of the Humanities Program. He is the author of Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment as well as articles on political rhetoric and deliberation, the meaning of representative government, the relationship of politics and religion, and the place of emotions in political life.

Garsten is now finishing a book called The Heart of a Heartless World that examines the ethical, political and religious core of early nineteenth century liberalism in the United States and France. He has also edited Rousseau, the Enlightenment, and Their Legacies, a collection of essays by the Rousseau scholar Robert Wokler

Samuel Moyn's picture

Professor Samuel Moyn

Samuel Moyn is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University.

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 has written several books in his fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010), and edited or coedited a number of others. His most recent books are Christian Human Rights (2015, based on Mellon Distinguished Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2014) and Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). He is currently working on a new book on the origins and significance of humane war for Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Over the years he has written in venues such as Boston Review, the Chronicle of HigherEducation, Dissent, The NationThe New Republic, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

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Ross Douthat

Since 2009 Ross Douthat has been an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times where every Wednesday and Sunday he has written on politics, religion, moral values and higher education. Previously, he was a senior editor at The Atlantic and a blogger for He is the author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (2012) and Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (2005); co-author, with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (2008), and most recently author of Decadence: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success (2020). He is the film critic for National Review.