Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

By Michael Paris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
LEGAL MOBILIZATION
THEORY AND LEGAL
TRANSLATION:
OLD TERRITORY AND
NEW FRONTIERS

IN THE EARLY 1970S, STUART SCHEINGOLD SET OUT TO understand “the part that lawyers and litigation could play in altering the course of public policy” in favor of relatively disadvantaged groups. Gaining insight into this topic, he argued, depended on “abandon[ing] the conventional legal perspective and replac[ing] it with a political approach to law and change.” He called the conventional perspective “the myth of rights,” and the political perspective “the politics of rights.”1

Scheingold's effort marked an important break from mainstream political science work on law and courts. Whereas mainstream approaches placed judges and courts at the center of analysis, Scheingold focused on the mindset and strategic thinking of would-be change agents. And whereas mainstream work adopted what purported to be a normatively disinterested stance, Scheingold acknowledged his practical interests in social change and his desire for engagement with his research subjects. He wanted better to understand the dynamics

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