“Rethinking the Separation of Powers,” Colloquium with McGill University Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory Jacob T. Levy

 04/16/2021

McGill University Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory Jacob T. Levy will explore two sources of dysfunction in the separation of powers as currently understood in the Constitution—the interaction of separate powers with separate parties and the growing complexity of the executive branch—arguing that the first calls for serious reform while the second demands both far-reaching re-consideration of how we conceive of executive power and the application of separation of powers reasons to institutional changes in the branch itself. The talk will be held via Zoom on April 16 at 3:30pm, and interested parties should contact Thomas Kane, KaneTC@missouri.edu, to be added to the email list of people who receive Zoom links for all Kinder Institute talks on the day of the events.

Abstract

This talk will describe two sources of dysfunction in the separation of powers as currently understood in the U.S. Constitution: the interaction of separate powers with separate parties, and the growth in complexity within the executive branch. I’ll argue that the first means the U.S. separation of powers has never worked as imagined by the Founders, and that the weakness that has been exposed in it in recent years calls for serious reform, not just a hope to return to normal. The second ultimately calls for a far-reaching change in how we understand executive power, and for applying separation of powers reasons to institutional changes within the executive branch itself.

 

Jacob T. Levy is Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory and Director of the Yan P. Lin Centre at McGill University, as well as Senior Fellow at The Niskanen Center and The Institute for Humane Studies. He received his A.B. with Honors in Political Science from Brown University, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University, and an LLM from University of Chicago Law, and he was a 1993-94 Visiting Fulbright Scholar at University College, University of New South Wales. Prof. Levy is the author of two Oxford University Press monographs, Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom (forthcoming) and The Multiculturalism of Fear (2000), and has edited or co-edited a number of volumes, including The Interpretation of Modernity: Essays on the Work of Charles Taylor (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020) and Colonialism and Its Legacies (Lexington Press, 2011). He was a visiting scholar in 2018 at Stanford’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics and a 2017 endowed visitor in the University of Otago (New Zealand) Department of Philosophy, and received a Mellon Foundation “New Directions Fellowship” for a year of study at University of Chicago Law. Prof. Levy also currently serves on the editorial boards of the American Political Science Review, Political Studies, and Social Philosophy and Policy.