Legal Intellectual Movements in Political Time: Reconstructive Leadership and Transformations of Legal Thought and Discourse

Legal Intellectual Movements in Political Time: Reconstructive Leadership and Transformations of Legal Thought and Discourse

Legal Intellectual Movements in Political Time: Reconstructive Leadership and Transformations of Legal Thought and Discourse

Legal Intellectual Movements in Political Time: Reconstructive Leadership and Transformations of Legal Thought and Discourse

Synopsis

Zschirnt looks at the dynamics of change in the legal marketplace of ideas during three periods of political realignment (the 1980s, the 1930s, and the 1890s). Het analyzes patterns in legal scholarship in law reviews, trends in legal education and pedagogy, and major developments in legal thought and jurisprudence in order to assess how the embrace of revolutionary legal ideologies by presidents and other prominent political actors helped legitimate these ideologies during each period. His analysis indicates that the relationship between political support for new approaches to the law and changes in the legal marketplace of ideas has not been constant over time but rather has been contingent upon a number of contextual factors.

Excerpt

“People don’t understand what the law schools were like 20 years ago” explains Gary Lawson, one of the founding members of the Federalist Society, the nation’s leading conservative legal professional organization. “[A]nyone who said anything out of the orthodoxy would get hissed.” Although the liberal orthodoxy that Lawson is referring to retains a strong presence in the law schools, conservative approaches to the law have since enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in the legal marketplace of ideas, one that has paralleled conservative trends in national politics. This phenomenon and its historical antecedents are the subject of this book, which examines the dynamics of the relationship between changes in electoral politics and changes in legal thought. In particular, it examines the reasons for the congruence between the cycle of conservative and liberal trends in national politics and the cycle of formalist and instrumentalist trends in legal thought. Its thesis is that this congruence is not merely coincidental or the product of the independent action of historical forces upon electoral politics and the legal profession. Instead, it is in large part the result of political change facilitating change in the legal profession by legitimating new approaches to the law. This proposition is tested by examining the temporal relationship between the three most recent realignments of the political system and their associated changes in constitutional discourse, constitutional jurisprudence, and legal education and pedagogy. This analysis finds that the legal profession is generally responsive to realities of power and that the embrace of new approaches to the law by political actors during periods of political realignment can have a legitimating effect. However, the importance of this effect in changing the climate of the legal marketplace of ideas is contingent upon the comprehensiveness of the realignment and upon the degree to which a new approach to the law has an existing foothold in the legal marketplace of ideas.

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