A Brief Biography

Curriculum Vitae

PETER E. GORDON is the Amabel B. James Professor of History, Faculty Affilitate in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is a critical theorist and an historian of modern European philosophy and social thought, specializing in Frankfurt School critical theory, phenomenology, existentialism, and Western Marxism.  A frequent contributor of criticism and commentary to periodicals such as The New York Times Book ReviewThe New RepublicThe Boston Review of BooksThe Nationand The New York Review of Books, he has published major works on Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, Jürgen Habermas, and Theodor W. Adorno.  His book Rosenzweig and Heidegger:  Between Judaism and German Philosophy (2003) received four international awards, including the Salo Baron Prize for the best book in Jewish history, the Goldstein-Goren Prize for the best book in Jewish philosophy, and the Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas. His second book, Continental Divide:  Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos (2010) received the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society, one of the most distinguished awards in European and American cultural history; it has been called a "magisterial" study in The New York Review of Books His third and more recent monograph, Adorno and Existence, was published by Harvard University Press in 2016, and was reviewed in periodicals such as Critical Inquiryand The New York Review of Books.  His next book, Migrants in the Profane: Critical Theory and the Question of Secularization, based on lectures he gave at Yale University, was recently published by Yale (Fall, 2020); it was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, and other periodicals.  He is also co-author of the book,  Authoritarianism: Three Inquiries in Critical Theorywhich also includes chapters by Wendy Brown and Max Pensky (2018).   In June, 2019, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Theodor W. Adorno's death in 1969, he delivered the Adorno Vorlesungen at the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, on the theme, "Adorno and the Sources of Normativity."  The lectures, widely reviewed in the German press, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, are currently available online from the Institut für Sozialforschung, and will be published as A Precarious Happiness:  Adorno on Negativity and Normativityby Suhrkamp Verlag (in German).

Gordon has also edited numerous collections, including The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy (2007); The Modernist Imagination:  Essays in Intellectual History and Critical Theory (2008); Weimar Thought:  A Contested Legacy (2013); and The Trace of God: Derrida and Religion (2014).  He is co-editor with Warren Breckman of The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought (2019), and he is co-editor with Espen Hammer and Axel Honneth of The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School (2018), and co-editor with Espen Hammer and Max Pensky of A Companion to Adorno (Blackwell, 2019).  He also helped to edit and wrote the introduction for the new edition of Adorno et al, The Authoritarian Personality (2019). He is currently writing a longer, more comprehensive study of secularization and social theory since Max Weber.  A full listing of his publications can be found by consulting the "publications" link, by consulting his CV, or by following the link above to publications on amazon.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Peter E. Gordon attended the University of Chicago and Reed College, and received his PhD in modern European intellectual history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997. From 1998 to 2000, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows.  He joined the faculty at Harvard University in the autumn of 2000, and he was appointed to a position on the permanent faculty in 2005.  He is currently Amabel B. James Professor of History, Faculty Affiliate at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Philosophy.  He also has a permanent seat on the Standing Committee for Degrees in Social Studies.  He regularly teaches a survey of German Social Thought from Nietzsche to Habermas, a survey of French Social Thought from Durkheim to Foucault, and an intensive lecture course on Hegel and Marx.  He  Between 2010 and 2015, he was Harvard College Professor, an honorary title that is awarded to faculty for excellence in teaching. He has been named a finalist twice for the Levinson Award for undergraduate teaching, and, in 2005, he received the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Excellence in Teaching.  For the year 2017-18 he was awarded a Walter Channing Cabot Fellowship for excellence in scholarship. He has been the recipient of fellowships from Princeton University, and has been a visiting professor at the École Normale Supérieure, and the School for Criticism and Theory at Cornell University.  In June, 2019 he delivered the Adorno Vorlesungen at the Goethe Universität Frankfurt on the 50th anniversary of the death of Theodor W. Adorno. 

Professor Gordon serves on the editorial boards for ConstellationsModern Intellectual History, The Journal of the History of Ideas, Jewish Social Studiesand New German Critique.   He is a frequent contributor of criticism and commentary to periodicals such as The New York Times Book Review, The New RepublicThe Boston Review of BooksThe Nation, and The New York Review of Books. He is co-editor of 'Intellectual History of the Modern Age,' a series published by Penn Press; he is also co-editor, with Axel Honneth and Espen Hammer, of The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School (2018), and co-editor, with Warren Breckman, of The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought (2019). His more recent book, entitled Adorno and Existencewas published by Harvard University Press in 2016; and, most recently, he published Migrants in the Profane:  Critical Theory and the Question of Secularization (2020). He is currently writing a new book on secularization and social thought in the twentieth century.  

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