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About Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University as well as a Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for Bloomberg View.
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Before joining the Harvard faculty, Feldman was Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. He was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2005. In 2004 he was a visiting professor at Yale Law School and a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center. In 2003 he served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution. He served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court (1998 – 1999). Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a D. Phil. in Islamic Thought from Oxford University and a J.D. from Yale Law School, serving as Book Reviews Editor of the Yale Law Journal. He received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 1992, finishing first in his class.
His new book, "The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President" will be available on October 31, 2017 (Random House) and is available for pre-order here. He is the author of six other books including: Cool War: The Future of Global Competition (Random House, May 21, 2013), the award winning and acclaimed Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Justices(Twelve, 2010), The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton University Press, 2008); Divided By God: America's Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2005); What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton University Press 2004); and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2003). He also co-authored two textbooks with Kathleen Sullivan, titled, "Constitutional Law", 19th Edition (Foundation Press, 2016) and "First Amendment Law", 6th Edition (Foundation Press, 2016). He has worked as a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine.
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Titles By Noah Feldman
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
An innovative account of Abraham Lincoln, constitutional thinker and doer
Abraham Lincoln is justly revered for his brilliance, compassion, humor, and rededication of the United States to achieving liberty and justice for all. He led the nation into a bloody civil war to uphold the system of government established by the US Constitution—a system he regarded as the “last best hope of mankind.” But how did Lincoln understand the Constitution?
In this groundbreaking study, Noah Feldman argues that Lincoln deliberately and recurrently violated the United States’ founding arrangements. When he came to power, it was widely believed that the federal government could not use armed force to prevent a state from seceding. It was also assumed that basic civil liberties could be suspended in a rebellion by Congress but not by the president, and that the federal government had no authority over slavery in states where it existed. As president, Lincoln broke decisively with all these precedents, and effectively rewrote the Constitution’s place in the American system. Before the Civil War, the Constitution was best understood as a compromise pact—a rough and ready deal between states that allowed the Union to form and function. After Lincoln, the Constitution came to be seen as a sacred text—a transcendent statement of the nation’s highest ideals.
The Broken Constitution is the first book to tell the story of how Lincoln broke the Constitution in order to remake it. To do so, it offers a riveting narrative of his constitutional choices and how he made them—and places Lincoln in the rich context of thinking of the time, from African American abolitionists to Lincoln’s Republican rivals and Secessionist ideologues.
Includes 8 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations
A tiny, ebullient Jew who started as America’s leading liberal and ended as its most famous judicial conservative. A Klansman who became an absolutist advocate of free speech and civil rights. A backcountry lawyer who started off trying cases about cows and went on to conduct the most important international trial ever. A self-invented, tall-tale Westerner who narrowly missed the presidency but expanded individual freedom beyond what anyone before had dreamed.
Four more different men could hardly be imagined. Yet they had certain things in common. Each was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings on the edge of poverty. Each had driving ambition and a will to succeed. Each was, in his own way, a genius.
Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson began as close allies and friends of FDR. But the quest to shape a new Constitution led them to competition and sometimes outright warfare. Scorpions tells the story of these four great justices: their relationship with Roosevelt, with each other, and with the turbulent world of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It also serves as a history of the modern Constitution itself.
Praise for Scorpions
“Smart and engaging.” —New York Times Book Review
“Full of high-stakes intellectual drama.” —Washington Post
“A first-rate work of narrative history that succeeds in bringing the intellectual and political battles of the post-Roosevelt Court vividly to life.” —Publishers Weekly
“In order to understand America and its Constitution, it is necessary to understand James Madison.”—Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci
Over the course of his life, James Madison changed the United States three times: First, he designed the Constitution, led the struggle for its adoption and ratification, then drafted the Bill of Rights. As an older, cannier politician he co-founded the original Republican party, setting the course of American political partisanship. Finally, having pioneered a foreign policy based on economic sanctions, he took the United States into a high-risk conflict, becoming the first wartime president and, despite the odds, winning.
Now Noah Feldman offers an intriguing portrait of this elusive genius and the constitutional republic he created—and how both evolved to meet unforeseen challenges. Madison hoped to eradicate partisanship yet found himself giving voice to, and institutionalizing, the political divide. Madison’s lifelong loyalty to Thomas Jefferson led to an irrevocable break with George Washington, hero of the American Revolution. Madison closely collaborated with Alexander Hamilton on the Federalist papers—yet their different visions for the United States left them enemies.
Alliances defined Madison, too. The vivacious Dolley Madison used her social and political talents to win her husband new supporters in Washington—and define the diplomatic customs of the capital’s society. Madison’s relationship with James Monroe, a mixture of friendship and rivalry, shaped his presidency and the outcome of the War of 1812.
We may be more familiar with other Founding Fathers, but the United States today is in many ways Madisonian in nature. Madison predicted that foreign threats would justify the curtailment of civil liberties. He feared economic inequality and the power of financial markets over politics, believing that government by the people demanded resistance to wealth. Madison was the first Founding Father to recognize the importance of public opinion, and the first to understand that the media could function as a safeguard to liberty.
The Three Lives of James Madison is an illuminating biography of the man whose creativity and tenacity gave us America’s distinctive form of government. His collaborations, struggles, and contradictions define the United States to this day.
A brilliant and urgent appraisal of one of the most profound conflicts of our time
Even before George W. Bush gained reelection by wooing religiously devout "values voters," it was clear that church-state matters in the United States had reached a crisis. With Divided by God, Noah Feldman shows that the crisis is as old as this country--and looks to our nation's past to show how it might be resolved.
Today more than ever, ours is a religiously diverse society: Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist as well as Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. And yet more than ever, committed Christians are making themselves felt in politics and culture.
What are the implications of this paradox? To answer this question, Feldman makes clear that again and again in our nation's history diversity has forced us to redraw the lines in the church-state divide. In vivid, dramatic chapters, he describes how we as a people have resolved conflicts over the Bible, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the teaching of evolution through appeals to shared values of liberty, equality, and freedom of conscience. And he proposes a brilliant solution to our current crisis, one that honors our religious diversity while respecting the long-held conviction that religion and state should not mix.
Divided by God speaks to the headlines, even as it tells the story of a long-running conflict that has made the American people who we are.
The Cold War seemingly ended in a decisive victory for the West. But now, Noah Feldman argues, we are entering an era of renewed global struggle: the era of Cool War. Just as the Cold War matched the planet’s reigning superpowers in a contest for geopolitical supremacy, so this new age will pit the United States against a rising China in a contest for dominance, alliances, and resources. Already visible in Asia, the conflict will extend to the Middle East (U.S.-backed Israel versus Chinese-backed Iran), Africa, and beyond.
Yet this Cool War differs fundamentally from the zero-sum showdowns of the past: The world’s major power and its leading challenger are economically interdependent to an unprecedented degree. Exports to the U.S. account for nearly a quarter of Chinese trade, while the Chinese government holds 8 percent of America’s outstanding debt. This positive-sum interdependence has profound implications for nations, corporations, and international institutions. It makes what looked to be a classic contest between two great powers into something much more complex, contradictory, and badly in need of the shrewd and carefully reasoned analysis that Feldman provides.
To understand the looming competition with China, we must understand the incentives that drive Chinese policy. Feldman offers an arresting take on that country’s secretive hierarchy, proposing that the hereditary “princelings” who reap the benefits of the complicated Chinese political system are actually in partnership with the meritocrats who keep the system full of fresh talent and the reformers who are trying to root out corruption and foster government accountability. He provides a clear-eyed analysis of the years ahead, showing how China’s rise presents opportunities as well as risks. Robust competition could make the U.S. leaner, smarter, and more pragmatic, and could drive China to greater respect for human rights. Alternatively, disputes over trade, territory, or human rights could jeopardize the global economic equilibrium—or provoke a catastrophic “hot war” that neither country wants.
The U.S. and China may be divided by political culture and belief, but they are also bound together by mutual self-interest. Cool War makes the case for competitive cooperation as the only way forward that can preserve the peace and make winners out of both sides.
Praise for Cool War
“A timely book . . . sharp, logical and cool.”—The Economist
“Noah Feldman’s dissection of the United States–China relationship is smart, balanced, and wise.”—Robert D. Kaplan, New York Times bestselling author of The Revenge of Geography
“Compelling . . . Feldman’s book carries enough insight to warrant serious attention from anyone interested in what may well be the defining relationship in global affairs for decades to come.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A worthwhile and intriguing read.”—The Washington Post
“Masterfully elucidates China’s non-democratic/non-communist new form of government.
Perhaps no other Western writer has more deeply probed the bitter struggle in the Muslim world between the forces of religion and law and those of violence and lawlessness as Noah Feldman. His scholarship has defined the stakes in the Middle East today. Now, in this incisive book, Feldman tells the story behind the increasingly popular call for the establishment of the shari'a--the law of the traditional Islamic state--in the modern Muslim world.
Western powers call it a threat to democracy. Islamist movements are winning elections on it. Terrorists use it to justify their crimes. What, then, is the shari'a? Given the severity of some of its provisions, why is it popular among Muslims? Can the Islamic state succeed--should it? Feldman reveals how the classical Islamic constitution governed through and was legitimated by law. He shows how executive power was balanced by the scholars who interpreted and administered the shari'a, and how this balance of power was finally destroyed by the tragically incomplete reforms of the modern era. The result has been the unchecked executive dominance that now distorts politics in so many Muslim states. Feldman argues that a modern Islamic state could provide political and legal justice to today's Muslims, but only if new institutions emerge that restore this constitutional balance of power.
The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State gives us the sweeping history of the traditional Islamic constitution--its noble beginnings, its downfall, and the renewed promise it could hold for Muslims and Westerners alike. In a new introduction, Feldman discusses developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and other Muslim-majority countries since the Arab Spring and describes how Islamists must meet the challenge of balance if the new Islamic states are to succeed.
A lucid and compelling case for a new American stance toward the Islamic world.
What comes after jihad? Outside the headlines, believing Muslims are increasingly calling for democratic politics in their undemocratic countries. But can Islam and democracy successfully be combined? Surveying the intellectual and geopolitical terrain of the contemporary Muslim world, Noah Feldman proposes that Islamic democracy is indeed viable and desirable, and that the West, particularly the United States, should work to bring it about, not suppress it.
Encouraging democracy among Muslims threatens America's autocratic Muslim allies, and raises the specter of a new security threat to the West if fundamentalists are elected. But in the long term, the greater threat lies in continuing to support repressive regimes that have lost the confidence of their citizens. By siding with Islamic democrats rather than the regimes that repress them, the United States can bind them to the democratic principles they say they support, reducing anti-Americanism and promoting a durable peace in the Middle East.
After Jihad gives the context for understanding how the many Muslims who reject religious violence see the world after the globalization of democracy. It is also an argument about how American self-interest can be understood to include a foreign policy consistent with the deeply held democratic values that make America what it is. At a time when the encounter with Islam has become the dominant issue of U.S. foreign policy, After Jihad provides a road map for making democracy work in a region where the need for it is especially urgent.
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Why the conventional wisdom about the Arab Spring is wrong
The Arab Spring promised to end dictatorship and bring self-government to people across the Middle East. Yet everywhere except Tunisia it led to either renewed dictatorship, civil war, extremist terror, or all three. In The Arab Winter, Noah Feldman argues that the Arab Spring was nevertheless not an unmitigated failure, much less an inevitable one. Rather, it was a noble, tragic series of events in which, for the first time in recent Middle Eastern history, Arabic-speaking peoples took free, collective political action as they sought to achieve self-determination.
Focusing on the Egyptian revolution and counterrevolution, the Syrian civil war, the rise and fall of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the Tunisian struggle toward Islamic constitutionalism, Feldman provides an original account of the political consequences of the Arab Spring, including the reaffirmation of pan-Arab identity, the devastation of Arab nationalisms, and the death of political Islam with the collapse of ISIS. He also challenges commentators who say that the Arab Spring was never truly transformative, that Arab popular self-determination was a mirage, and even that Arabs or Muslims are less capable of democracy than other peoples.
Above all, The Arab Winter shows that we must not let the tragic outcome of the Arab Spring disguise its inherent human worth. People whose political lives had been determined from the outside tried, and for a time succeeded, in making politics for themselves. That this did not result in constitutional democracy or a better life for most of those affected doesn't mean the effort didn't matter. To the contrary, it matters for history—and it matters for the future.
What do we owe Iraq?
America is up to its neck in nation building--but the public debate, focused on getting the troops home, devotes little attention to why we are building a new Iraqi nation, what success would look like, or what principles should guide us. What We Owe Iraq sets out to shift the terms of the debate, acknowledging that we are nation building to protect ourselves while demanding that we put the interests of the people being governed--whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or elsewhere--ahead of our own when we exercise power over them.
Noah Feldman argues that to prevent nation building from turning into a paternalistic, colonialist charade, we urgently need a new, humbler approach. Nation builders should focus on providing security, without arrogantly claiming any special expertise in how successful nation-states should be made. Drawing on his personal experiences in Iraq as a constitutional adviser, Feldman offers enduring insights into the power dynamics between the American occupiers and the Iraqis, and tackles issues such as Iraqi elections, the prospect of successful democratization, and the way home.
Elections do not end the occupier's responsibility. Unless asked to leave, we must resist the temptation of a military pullout before a legitimately elected government can maintain order and govern effectively. But elections that create a legitimate democracy are also the only way a nation builder can put itself out of business and--eventually--send its troops home.
Feldman's new afterword brings the Iraq story up-to-date since the book's original publication in 2004, and asks whether the United States has acted ethically in pushing the political process in Iraq while failing to control the security situation; it also revisits the question of when, and how, to withdraw.