Lunch seminar with Ríán Derrig

Educating American Modernists: The Origins of the New Haven School

Ríán Derrig, European University Institute (

In this seminar, Ríán will present findings drawn from his current research, a reconstruction of the intellectual history of the policy-oriented jurisprudence of Myres McDougal and Harold Lasswell, widely known as the 'New Haven School'. This project has been completed as a doctoral thesis at the European University Institute. 

While the contemporary field has for the most part understood McDougal and Lasswell’s work as a post-war, positivist-empiricist theory of international law, Ríán’s research recovers its origins as an interwar, psychoanalytic project of engineering social change through education and law. Using material held at archives in New Haven, New York and Chicago, much of which includes previously unseen sources, his project constructs a deep intellectual history of Lasswell and McDougal’s theory of international law.

Ríán’s findings place McDougal and Lasswell’s conception of a ‘science’ of law in a context of late 19th and early 20th century ideas preoccupied with connecting ‘scientific’ enquiry to psychological interiority. Contrary to the positivist-empiricism usually associated with the New Haven School, the project of relating ‘science’ to the modern psyche was of central significance to the two bodies of thought that can be described as the intellectual origins of the school’s jurisprudence – psychoanalysis and philosophical pragmatism. Ríán will discuss the relationship between these formative ideas and Lasswell and McDougal’s post-war development of the ‘New Haven School’.

All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.