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Isaac Reed

Isaac Reed

Ex Officio Member
Sorensen Advisory Board

Isaac Reed's Biography

Charlottesville, Virginia

Since his first year of college, he has always been drawn to the life of the mind. The purpose of that life, in his view, is to create a learning environment where students can become clear and careful thinkers, active and engaged citizens, and responsible and caring people. His own research in historical sociology considers how humans have, in different times and places, enhanced their capacity to flourish by constructing complex and interconnected forms of social, technical and economic organization, democratic republics, and ethical traditions; yet simultaneously we have reproduced, and even introduced new forms of, disempowerment, domination and moral destruction. In the engagements, he draws on his research experience to teach students to think comparatively about society and history, and to venture outside their own experience so as to better understand the world and how to act ethically within it. He asks students to learn about the tremendous variation in how the interconnected societies of the globe are organized, connect the long arc of human history to the concerns and struggles of their own generation, and write with rigor, clarity, and courage in the pursuit of truth.

The grandson of Jewish refugees, he was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University in 2007, after which he taught for nine years at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2016 he moved to Charlottesville with his wife Jennifer and daughter Hannah. His first book, Interpretation and Social Knowledge: On the use of theory in the human sciences, proposed a framework for bringing the humanities and social sciences closer together. His second book, Power in Modernity: Agency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies, developed a new account of transitions to modernity in politics.