Postmodern Legal Movements: Law and Jurisprudence At Century's End / Edition 1

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What do Catharine MacKinnon, the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, and Lani Guinier have in common? All have, in recent years, become flashpoints for different approaches to legal reform. In the last quarter century, the study and practice of law have been profoundly influenced by a number of powerful new movements; academics and activists alike are rethinking the interaction between law and society, focusing more on the tangible effects of law on human lives than on its procedural elements.

In this wide-ranging and comprehensive volume, Gary Minda surveys the current state of legal scholarship and activism, providing an indispensable guide to the evolution of law in America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
”An exceedingly well-informed look at the most important trend in legal scholarship today. An excellent, readable presentation of the most controversial and difficult ideas about law and legal culture.”

-David Kennedy,Harvard Law School

”Deserves the attention of all who are interested in understanding the state of jurisprudence in the 1990s.”

-Mark Tushnet,Georgetown University Law Center

Minda (law, Brooklyn Law School) surveys the current state of legal scholarship and activism, describing movements that focus on the effects of law on human lives. He outlines the origins of modern normative and conceptual jurisprudence, discusses movements of the 1980s, and analyzes postmodern jurisprudence. He demonstrates how the new forms of scholarly discourse at the end of this century have ruptured the modern styles of jurisprudence, and how those discourses themselves have been reshaped by a postmodern perspective. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Lief Carter
This highly descriptive book, little more than a selective (and extremely redundant) review of some curiously selected recent writers, will have very limited utility for political scientists. It may serve the purpose of introducing a cohort of aging and atheoretical law professors -- I imagine specialists in such subjects as Federal income taxation -- to the existence and significance of developments in academic legal theory in the last twenty years. But it is too simplistic, too selective, too reductive, and substantively too seriously flawed reliably to add to the knowledge of attentive students of contemporary political theory in public law. This book could have been an encyclopedic mapping of the postmodern terrain. To serve that function well, the book would contain a bibliography and footnotes at page bottoms. Minda, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School, has presumably been socialized into using the exhaustive law review genre of footnoting. This practice is itself incompatible with postmodern thought, since the practice presumes that the author must prove she got each point authoritatively "right." But by placing hundreds of such notes as endnotes he defeats his own purpose. To succeed as an encyclopedic map, the author would also have to avoid such an arbitrary selection of writers, or at least to select systematically the most recent significant writers. Yet here we find Carol Gilligan but no Carrie Menkel-Meadow. Milner Ball is barely mentioned, and only in connection with Critical Race Theory, which is not his main stage. Robert Ellickson and Mary Ann Glendon are missing in action. Minda might alternatively have taken a critical stance within, or a distinctive position toward, postmodern developments. Unfortunately, his position merely insists that postmodernism is important and here to stay. As I've already hinted, the primary problem with this book is the author's choice of analytical categories and methods. The book is not primarily about postmodern thought after all. Instead, he juxtaposes Langdellian determinism against five recent schools of thought -- law and economics, critical legal studies, feminist theory, law and literature, and critical race theory. Minda calls these five schools "postmodern" because they share a new "skeptical aesthetic mood" (p. 2). I do not know what he means by this, but I cannot myself avoid placing law and economics in a positivistic place that differs considerably from law and literary studies. In any event, Minda confuses me by his concluding section -- less than a quarter of the book -- which rightly suggests that postmodernism challenges each of these five scholarly fields. Minda's preface accurately describes the book as a "modest effort to carry on" a jurisprudential tradition, and as an effort "to try and capture the general jurisprudential climate" of our time. But from the postmodern perspective these two efforts are not compatible. If postmodernism radically breaks from the past, one should not try to Page 224 follows: "carry on." In any event, having made the choice to carry on, Minda should not have dismissed sociological jurisprudence and legal realism in about ten pages. John Dewey, Edward Levi, and Albert Sacks do not appear in the index. Cardozo gets less attention than "Leave It to Beaver" and Ricky Nelson. Frankfurter and Arnold get no attention at all. Space does not permit me to point out all of the substantive particulars with which I happen, as a student of the subject, to disagree. The book will be a positive experience for beginners who need to learn that "Some law and economics scholars took issue with liberal scholars who argued that objective decision making standards can be inferred from an interpretive community or from some enduring theory of legal rights" (p. 191), or that "Deconstruction is thus a form of criticism that attempts to defeat foundational claims of conceptual knowledge" (p. 118), or that "Jules Coleman argued that 'transaction costs are a black box that needs to be filled in"' (p. 104). But the descriptive style of this book, coupled with its outdatedness (We get only the Stanley Fish of "Is There a Text in this Class?"), achieves the very opposite of a postmodern performance. Minda does understand the central role of performance practices in postmodern thought. But that very truth should direct political theorists and law professors alike to pay greater attention to law in action, to realize that academics have no special access to any truths that lie beyond the constructs of our own particular academic tribal languages. Minda would thus have served us better by writing about Gerry Spence than about this (partial) list of the usual academic suspects.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814755112
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 362
  • Product dimensions: 0.85 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Minda is Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Modern Jurisprudence, 1871-1980
1 Origins of Modern Jurisprudence 13
2 Modern Conceptual Jurisprudence 24
3 Modern Normative Jurisprudence 44
4 Decline of Modern Jurisprudential Studies 62
Pt. 2 Jurisprudential Movements of the 1980s
5 Law and Economics 83
6 Critical Legal Studies 106
7 Feminist Legal Theory 128
8 Law and Literature 149
9 Critical Race Theory 167
Pt. 3 Postmodern Jurisprudence, 1990s and Beyond
10 Jurisprudence in Transition 189
11 Reaction of Modern Legal Scholars 208
12 Postmodern Jurisprudence 224
Conclusion: Jurisprudence at Century's End 247
Notes 259
Index 343
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