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. “Public Goods.” The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, edited by J. Krieger, Oxford University Press, 1993.


Knight, J., and J. Ensminger. “Changing Social Norms.” Current Anthropology, vol. 38, no. 1, 1997, pp. 1–24.

Knight, J., and D. North. “Explaining Economic Change: The Interplay Between Institutions and Cognition.” Legal Theory, vol. 3, 1997, pp. 211–26.

Knight, J. “Book Reviews.” American Political Science Review, vol. 91, no. 3, 1997, pp. 711–12.

Knight, J., and D. North. “Explaining economic change: The Interplay Between Cognition and Institutions.” Legal Theory, vol. 3, no. 3, Jan. 1997, pp. 211–26. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S1352325200000768. Full Text

Knight, J. “Social Institutions and Human Cognition: Thinking About Old Questions in New Ways.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (Jite) / Zeitschrift Für Die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft, vol. 153, no. 4, 1997, pp. 693–99. Manual, doi:10.2307/40752025. Full Text

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “The Norm of Stare Decisis.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 40, no. 4, 1996, pp. 1018–35.

Knight, J., and L. Epstein. “On the Struggle for Judicial Sepremacy.” Law & Society Review, vol. 30, no. 1, 1996, pp. 87–120.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “The Political Consequences of Pragmatism.” Political Theory, vol. 24, no. 1, 1996, pp. 68–96.

Thompson, D. C., et al. “Preference for specific varieties of woolly locoweed by a specialist weevil, Cleonidius trivittatus (Say).” Southwestern Entomologist, vol. 20, no. 3, Dec. 1995, pp. 325–33.

Knight, J., and J. Johnson. “Aggregation and Deliberation: On the Possibility of Democratic Legitimacy.” Political Theory, vol. 22, no. 2, 1994, pp. 277–96.