Failed Revolutions: Social Reform and the Limits of Legal Imagination

By Richard Delgado; Jean Stefancic | Go to book overview

5
Gathering with the Like-Minded: Symposium Battles

Outsider scholarship with a reformist agenda has been developing rapidly in many fields. In law, radical feminists are challenging law's ingrained maleness and patriarchial assumptions. Critical race theorists and others are raising doubts about many doctrines and legal theories by which we have been ordering our social world.

How are the new views being received? As the previous chapter showed, mainstream figures ignore the new ideas as long as possible. And when the new voices become impossible to ignore, they push them to the periphery, tame and marginalize them, to avoid having to deal with what the newcomers are saying. This chapter describes another mechanism that comes into play during times of paradigm shift and change: Grouping together with others like us. The new voices strike us as strange and disconcerting. What more natural response than to form a think tank, convoke a symposium of the like-minded? This way, we regain the solidarity that seems to be slipping away.

This effect is most vivid within the setting of the law review symposium. Most such symposium issues are designed to bring together a group of scholars with common interests and ideas. This chapter describes how the symposium has developed and what its current status is. We believe symposium publishing, like other expressions of beleaguered collectivity, can serve both exclusionary and inclusionary purposes. We describe these contradictory purposes and show how they play themselves out on the pages of our most influential legal journals, both braking and propelling change at the same time.


The Symposium

Since publication of the earliest known law review symposium in 1889, 1 tens of thousands of symposia, colloquies, and special issues have been published. During the period 1980 to 1990 alone, almost 14,000 sympo

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