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Reconstructing American Law

By (author) Bruce A. Ackerman
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, United States
Published: 1st Jul 1984
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm d 17mm
Weight: 300g
ISBN-10: 0674750152
ISBN-13: 9780674750159
Barcode No: 9780674750159

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Kirkus US
The heavyweight author of Social Justice in the Liberal State (1980), Beekman Professor of Law and Philosophy at Columbia, undertakes to map out the proper path for legal activism today. Ackerman is much concerned With "law-talk" - legal jargon - and "law stuff": the legal consequences of the turn toward administrative law and bureaucratic flat associated with the New Deal. The Supreme Court sanctioning of semi-judicial New Deal agencies, he notes, upset the American legal tradition, previously grounded in common law. Instead of incorporating administrative-law principles into the common law, the new legal activists adopted a "Realist" stance that severed individual cases from the common law tradition and judged them on their own merits in relation to desired outcomes (which were often poorly defined or understood). The Realists have turned out to be conservative, in Ackerman's view, because they have never understood the new reality of state and society signaled by the transformations in law. Hence they apply outmoded models of free markets and individual autonomy to their judgments. In order to establish a coherent "law-talk" for social change, lawyers have to know much more about the possible outcomes of any act than the Realist framework allows. Preeminently, they need to become adept at computer modeling in order to realistically appraise all the factors involved in any particular legal problem. Social facts have to be reconstituted through the sophisticated use of statistics, that is, to compensate for the longer time-frames and the many individual and collective actions that now go into the determination of legal facts. As regards values, Ackerman wants the legal system to establish a basis in civil and economic rights that will make freedom of contract a meaningful thing, rather than a conservative rallying cry: that requires the kind of statistical information computers provide. Without an understanding of current legal issues, Ackerman's argument will be impenetrable; with such an understanding, it will appear as a moderate's attempt to pull together threads from competing legal schools in the interest of social justice. From neither point of view is it particularly impressive. (Kirkus Reviews)