Jack Knight

Jack Knight

Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science

External Address: 
Duke Law School 210 Science Dr, Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Law School Room 3010, Duke Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708-0204
(919) 613-8551
American Politics, Political Theory, Political Economy, Political Institutions

A renowned political scientist and legal theorist, Professor Knight's scholarly work focuses on modern social and political theory, law and legal theory, and political economy. He holds a joint appointment with Duke Law School and Duke's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches in the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program. At the Law School, he teaches courses on social scientific approaches to law and courts, as well as courses on the political economy of social institutions. Professor Knight's research focuses on the rules and norms that organize human activities in nations. In addition to study of the motivations and decisions of judges, he has examined the effects of the norm of extensive prior judicial experience as a prerequisite for service on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as several other aspects of how courts make decisions and how judges choose their positions in opinions. Professor Knight is the author of several books: Institutions and Social Conflict(Cambridge University Press, 1992), Explaining Social Institutions (with Itai Sened) (The University of Michigan Press, 1995), and The Choices Justices Make(with Lee Epstein) (Congressional Quarterly Press, 1997), which won the American Political Science Association's C. Herman Prichett Award for the best book published on law and courts. He co-edited Courts, Judges and Politics(McGraw-Hill, 6th Edition, 2005) and has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes on such topics as democratic theory, the rule of law, judicial decision-making, and theories of institutional emergence and change. Prior to joining Duke Law in 2008, Professor Knight was the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University of St. Louis, where he served as chair of the Department of Political Science and was a fellow of the university's Center for Political Economy. He also has taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan and was an attorney with the Peninsula Legal Aid Center in Hampton, Va. He has served as a visiting professor at the International Center for Business and Politics of the Copenhagen Business School and a visiting scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation and the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany. Professor Knight holds a bachelor's degree and JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA and a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. View Professor Knight's profile at the Political Science Department


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago 1989
  • M.A., University of Chicago 1980
  • J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1977
  • B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1974

Knight, J. “Explaining the Rise of Neoliberalism: The Mechanisms of Institutional Change.” The Rise of Neoliberalism and Institutional Analysis, edited by J. Campbell and O. Pederson, Princeton University Press, 2001, pp. 27–50.

Knight, J. “Fostering Trust in a Socially-Diverse Society: Social Norms and the Rule of Law.” Trust in Society, edited by K. Cook, Russell Sage Foundation, 2001, pp. 354–73.

Knight, J. “Constitutionalism and Deliberate Democracy.” Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, edited by S. Macedo, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 159–69.

Knight, J. “Suboptimality and Social Institutions: The Relationship Between Cognition and Context.” Cognition, Rationality and Institutions, edited by M. Streit et al., Springer-Verlag, 2000, pp. 11–26.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Mapping Out the Strategic Terrain: The Informational Role of Amici Curiae.” Institutional Approaches to Supreme Court Decision-Making, edited by C. Clayton and H. Gillman, University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Knight, J., and J. Ensminger. “Conflict Over Changing Social Norms.” The New Institutionalism in Economic Sociology, edited by V. Nee and M. Brinton, Russell Sage Foundation, 1998, pp. 105–26.

Knight, J., and D. North. “Explaining the Complexity of Institutional Change.” The Political Economy of Property Rights, edited by D. Weimer, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 349–54.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “What Sort of Equality Does Democratic Deliberation Require?.” Deliberative Democracy, edited by J. Bohman and W. Rehg, MIT Press, 1997, pp. 279–320.

Knight, J. “Models, Interpretations and Theories: Constructing Explanations of Institutional Emergence and Change.” Explaining Social Institutions, University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “Public Choice and the Rule of Law: Rational Choice Theories of Statutory Interpretation.” Nomos: The Rule of Law, edited by I. Shapiro, 1994, pp. 244–64.


Knight, J., et al. “The Supreme Court as a Strategic National Policymaker.” Emory Law Review, vol. 50, no. 2, 2001, pp. 583–611.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Piercing the Veil: Justice William J. Brennan's Account of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.” Yale Law and Policy Review, vol. 19, no. 2, 2001, pp. 341–79.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “Towards a Strategic Revolution in Judicial Politics: A Look Back, A Look Ahead.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 53, 2000, pp. 625–63.

Knight, J., and J. Acheson. “Distribution Fights, Coordination Games and Lobster Management.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 42, no. 1, 2000, pp. 209–38.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “Inquiry Into Democracy.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 43, no. 2, 1999, pp. 566–89.

Knight, J. “Book Review.” Law & Politics Book Review, vol. 2, no. 9, 1998, pp. 103–06.

Knight, J. “The Bases of Cooperation: Social Norms and the Rule of Law.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, vol. 154, no. 4, 1998, pp. 754–63.

Knight, J. “Justice and Fairness.” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 1, 1998, pp. 425–49.

Knight, J. “Social institutions and human cognition: Thinking about old questions in new ways.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, vol. 153, no. 4, Dec. 1997, pp. 688–99.

Ensminger, Jean, and Jack Knight. “Changing Social Norms: Common Property, Bridewealth, and Clan Exogamy.” Current Anthropology, vol. 38, no. 1, University of Chicago Press, Feb. 1997, pp. 1–24. Crossref, doi:10.1086/204579. Full Text