Justice for the People
Traces the life and career of the great Supreme Court justice and discusses his involvement with labor unions, trust busting, women's suffrage, unemployment legislation, and Zionism.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Initially, a sluggish, insistently thematic reworking of well-known Brandeis material - but with research payoffs, fresh sightings, and close accountings to come. The first haft of the story: how Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) grew from a bright Louisville boy, with an idealistic, small-business, German-Jewish background; to a Boston Brahmin (and frugal millionaire), espousing small-business values and individual fulfillment; to a leading Progressive and, radically if cautiously, a proponent of industrial democracy (some form of worker-ownership and -management). . . with a minimum of government intervention, in keeping with his bias against Bigness. Thus, Strum's major point: the United States, under FDR, lost the chance to scale-down business and institute such a program. And, whatever one may think of a biographer pleading her subject's cause before the bar of history, the net effect is positive: ideas and beliefs endure, and matter. A subtheme, not unrelated, is Brandeis' self-assurance: for a change, we don't have a subject dominated by emotional needs, but influenced by experiences, contacts, even reading - and capable of acting on his ideas and beliefs. Exemplary is Strum's handling of Brandeis' famously "sudden" 1914 embrace of Zionism - not attributable, Strum contends, to anti-Semitism (Boston's elite turned against him as a radical, not a Jew, and he didn't care anyhow). After his tutelage of Wilson, Brandeis' influence had waned; on his annual August retreat, ready for new outlets, he read about Zionism and Jewish affairs - with which he had had nurturing contacts (including the garment-workers' strike). The book that most impressed him - a striking bit of deduction - was Alfred Zimmern's The Greek Commonwealth, which drew analogies with Palestine. "He discovered that he could unite his new ideas and his new interest with his overriding passion: creation of a society which would be small, self-governing, and worthy of the dignified self-made citizens he considered ideal." (The ensuing break with Weizmann, who put Judaism before progressivism, was inevitable.) Strum also gives exacting attention to the issue of Justice Brandeis' political activities - concluding that he was "both unethical and honest: he immersed himself in the formulation of policy in a most unjudicial manner, but he judged the cases that came before him according to the legal principles he enunciated publicly." Still, few can change roles so completely - and, with FDR, the "irony" was that Brandeis was unsuccessful. A rich study, ultimately - second only to Mason in fullness, significantly expanding on Urofsky, totally superior to Baker (above). (Kirkus Reviews)