William E. Forbath

William E. Forbath

  • Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law
  • Associate Dean for Research

Faculty Profile: William E. Forbath

Main Profile Content


Professor Forbath came to Texas in 1997 after more than a decade on the faculties of law and history at UCLA. Among the nation's leading legal and constitutional historians, he is the author of Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement (Harvard, 1991), the forthcoming The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution (Harvard, 2018)(with Joseph Fishkin) and dozens of articles, book chapters, and essays on legal and constitutional history and theory. His scholarly work appears in Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Law and Social Inquiry, and the Journal of American History; his journalism at Politico.com and in the New York Times, American Prospect and the Nation. His current research concerns social and economic rights in the courts and social movements of the Southern Hemisphere, and Jews, law and identity politics in the Progressive Era. Professor Forbath visited at Columbia Law School in 2001-02 and at Harvard Law School in 2008-09. He is on the Editorial Boards of Law & History, Law & Social Inquiry: Journal of the American Bar Foundation, and other journals, and on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Legal History, Texas Low-Income Housing Information Services, and other public interest organizations.

Here is a recent essay in the political theory journal NOMOS which distills many aspects of The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, Wealth, Commonwealth, and the Constitution of Opportunity. And here is a forthcoming essay, which offers a preview of his work on Jews, law and identity politics a century ago, Constitutionalism, Human Rights and the Genealogy of American Jewish Liberalism: A Comment.

Professional Activities


October 13-14, 2017

Paper Presentation

"The Half Life of New Deal Constitutional Political Economy," at Conference on "Understanding Constitutional Change: The State of the Field," Tulane Law School, New Orleans, LA, October 13-14, 2017

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May 19-21, 2017

Workshop Leader

Principal Director & Convener - Open Society Foundation Project on Expanding the Scope for Social and Economic Rights Litigation in Ghana and South Africa: “Toward a New Constitutional Political Economy – Transition and Transformation,” Cape Town, South Africa, May 19-21, 2017

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March 5, 2017


“The Jewish Constitutional Moment,” Conference on "Jewish Law in the Modern State," Yale Law School, New Haven, CT, March 5, 2017

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February 10, 2017


“Law, Lawyering and the Labor Movement: Past, Present, Future,” Conference on “Lawyers and Social Movements,” UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, February 10, 2017 

January 10-14, 2017

Conference Leader

Principal Director & Convener - Open Society Foundation Project on Expanding the Scope for Social and Economic Rights Litigation in Ghana and South Africa: “Equitable, Democratic and Sustainable Pathways of Oil Governance and Economic Development?” Accra, Ghana, January 10-14, 2017

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December 16, 2016

Featured Speaker

Featured speaker: The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Presents: Is America Becoming a Plutocracy?  Press Conference Call/American Constitution Society, December 16, 2016


September 22, 2016


"The Jewish Constitutional Moment: Diaspora and Group Rights in the Making of American Jewishness and Modern Liberalism," Gabry Memorial Lecture, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, September 22, 2016

July 28, 2016


“The Constitutional History of the Democratic Party,” podcast for National Constitution Center (with Jeff Rosen, Sean Wilentz) http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/07/podcast-a-constitutional-history-of-the-democratic-party/

April 19, 2016


“The Future of Economic and Social Rights,” Lecture at Boston College Law School, Chestnut Hill, MA, April 19, 2016

March 25, 2016

Featured Speaker

Fishkin & Forbath, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution in draft - centerpiece of conference on “Constitution and Economic Inequality” at The Center for Constitutional Governance 2016 Annual Conference, Columbia Law School, New York, NY, March 25, 2016

January 28-30, 2016

Core Speaker and Text

Texas Law Review Symposium on "The Constitution and Economic Inequality” – core text Fishkin & Forbath, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution in draft, with commentaries by Jack Balkin, Jeremy Kessler, Cynthia Estlund, Frank Michelman, Jed Purdy, & Reva Siegel, Austin, TX, January 28–30, 2016


March 30, 2015

Paper Presentation

“Wealth, Commonwealth and the Constitution of Opportunity: A Story of Two Traditions,” Harvard University Workshop on the History of Capitalism, Cambridge, MA, March 30, 2015 (with Joseph Fishkin)

March 18-19, 2015


“The Jewish Constitutional Moment in the Early Twentieth Century,” Lecture at Conference on “Jewish Rights, Minority Rights, Human Rights?” Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, March 18-19, 2015


May 18-19, 2014

Seminar Leader

“Constitution, Courts, and the South African National Political Economy,” (with Dennis Davis) at “Heterodox Innovations in Development Economics and Social and Economic Rights,” sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute and the Ecole du Droit, SciencesPo, Paris, France, May 18-19, 2014