The Empire Strikes Back: Outsiders and the Struggle over Legal Education

The Empire Strikes Back: Outsiders and the Struggle over Legal Education

The Empire Strikes Back: Outsiders and the Struggle over Legal Education

The Empire Strikes Back: Outsiders and the Struggle over Legal Education


Once dismissed as plodding and superfluous, legal scholarship is increasingly challenging the liberal white male establishment that currently dominates legal education and practice. The most significant development since the emergence of the casebook, at the turn of the century, this trend has unleashed a fierce political struggle. At stake is nothing less than the entire enterprise of law and education, and thus a powerful platform from which to shape society.

The result, here vividly recounted by Arthur Austin, has been an uncompromising, take-no-prisoners fight for dominance. The challenge comes from Outsiders, a collection of feminists, critical race theorists, and critical legal studies scholars who rely on unconventional methods such as storytelling to give voice to the underrepresented. In the other, demographically larger camp resides the monolithic Empire, consisting of traditionalists who, having developed an effective form of scholarship, now circle the wagons against the outsider heathens.

Neither partisan nor objective, Austin is both respectful and critical of each faction. The Empire, he believes, is imperious, closed-minded, and self-perpetuating; the Outsiders are too often paranoid, anti-pragmatic, and overly tolerant of fringe work. Is the new scholarship a vacuous, overpoliticized, soon-to-be-vanquished trend or the harbinger of an important new paradigm? Is reconciliation possible? Anyone with a vested interest in the answer to these questions, and in the future of law, cannot afford to miss Arthur Austin's invaluable volume.


The Players: Empire, Crits, Feminists, and CRT

The Empire is composed of academic traditionalists—the Kingsfields of legal education. the dominant theme dates to 1870 when Christopher Columbus Langdell introduced the casebook method to Harvard Law School. Since then, the study of law has been conducted according to the scientific model, which relies on rigid analysis to lead the student inevitably to neutral judgments. Scholarship adheres to the doctrinal method that informs decision makers and colleagues with objective analysis of legal problems. Until the appearance of the Outsider movement, the Empire had never been seriously challenged. Now it faces extinction.

According to conventional wisdom, the prevalence of back-stabbing in academics is due to the triviality of the rewards. Fights over curriculum changes, word processors, or tenure for a protégé are what academics call real politics. the Outsiders vs. the Empire is not trivial law school politics. Over the past decade legal education has exploded with vicious trashing, incendiary fax exchanges, and the return of the abuse tactics of the 1960s. This is not an academic sideshow; at issue is a brute power conflict over control of legal education and the future of the legal system.

On one side stands the Empire, composed mostly of Liberal white males. Joining them is a small group of females and minorities who share the Empire’s commitment to the Liberal tradition. the Empire is the Establishment. Challenging them is a coalition of three groups; the Crits of Critical Legal Studies, Feminists, and Critical Race Theorists (CRT). They are the Outsiders who accuse the Empire of refusing to acknowledge the unique contributions of their cultures and scholarship.

The Crits initiated the revolution. They defiantly threw down the gauntlet by attacking core Liberal values and by listing various Liberal atrocities committed against everyone from law students to minorities. Instead of benevolent protectors of the public trust, the Liberals were profiled as elitist . . .

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