Joel Isaac

Associate Professor
John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought and the College

Joel Isaac is a historian of modern social thought. In his first major research project, he examined how competing theories of knowledge drove important changes in the human sciences during the 20th century. Much of Isaac’s work in this area is presented in his first book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn, which was awarded the Gladstone Prize by the Royal Historical Society, United Kingdom. He is currently writing a book about the relations between economics and social thought from the late 19th century to the present. The aim of this project is to explain the ways in which modern economics has shaped—whether by attraction or repulsion—the development of social theory and political thought.

Among his other research activities, Isaac recently published a co-edited volume entitled The Worlds of American Intellectual History.

He received a BA and MA in modern history from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Most recently, he was a senior lecturer in the history of modern political thought at the University of Cambridge. In 2015, he was elected to a Pro Futura Scientia Fellowship, and as part of this program spent the 2016–17 academic year at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, Sweden.

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