Christine Desan

Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law

Harvard University

Christine Desan teaches about the international monetary system, the constitutional law of money, constitutional history, political economy, and legal theory. She is the co-founder of Harvard’s Program on the Study of Capitalism, an interdisciplinary project that brings together classes, resources, research funds, and advising aimed at exploring that topic. With its co-director, Prof. Sven Beckert (History), she has taught the Program’s anchoring research seminar, the Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism, since 2005.   

Desan’s research explores money as a legal and political project, one that configures the market it sets out to measure.  Her approach aims to open economic orthodoxy to question, particularly insofar as it assumes money as a neutral instrument and markets as autonomous phenomena.  She is currently completing a book called Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2014).  She is also the editor of Inside Money:  Re-Theorizing Liquidity (forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania Press), and co-editor with Sven Beckert of Capitalism in America:  New Histories (in progress). Her articles include "Coin Reconsidered:  The Political Alchemy of Commodity Money," Theoretical Inquiries in Law 287 (January, 2010), and "Beyond Commodification: Contract and the Credit-Based World of Modern Capitalism," in Transformation of American Law II: Essays for Morton Horwitz (2010). 

Since 2003, Desan has been President of the Ames Foundation, an independent foundation located at Harvard Law School. She is on the Board of the Institute for Global Law and Policy, is a faculty member of the Program on American Studies at Harvard University, and has served on the editorial board for the Law and History Review and as an advisory editor of Eighteenth Century Studies. In Brookline, MA, Desan served for 10 years on a town committee that researched and drafted legislation promoting campaign finance reform, and that supervised that reform once it was enacted.