Charles Lesch

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-2018)

Beginning in the fall of 2018, I will be the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Political Theory at Vanderbilt University. I received my Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2016, and was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. My research grapples with questions in contemporary political theory and practice by drawing from the history of European political thought, modern Jewish philosophy, social theory, religious studies, and literature. Among my interests are the ways in which liberal democracies can diminish domination and achieve solidarity, the political impact of our emotions and non-rational psychology, and how theorists have secularized religious ideas for ethics and politics.

My work has previously appeared in the American Political Science Review, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, and the Oxford Handbook of Civil Society, and I have articles forthcoming at the American Political Science Review and The Journal of Politics. My book manuscript, Deep Solidarity: European Political Theory, Modern Jewish Thought, and Liberal Commitment in a Secular Age, draws from such thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Jürgen Habermas, Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Buber, and George Eliot to develop a new normative theory of how liberal democracies can achieve social solidarity in light of humanity’s non-rational psychology.

My dissertation was nominated by Harvard for the American Political Science Association’s Leo Strauss Award for Best Dissertation in Political Theory. One of my chapters was awarded the Bowdoin Prize, Harvard’s highest award in the humanities. Another received a conference prize for best political science paper. At Harvard I was a Mellon/ACLS Fellow, Presidential Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellow in Ethics, and Graduate Society Merit Fellow. My work has been supported by the Harvard Center for European Studies and grants from the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies and Loeb Initiative on Religious Freedom. I graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Yale in 2009.