The Lost World of Classical Legal Thought: Law and Ideology in America, 1886-1937 by William M. Wiecek

The Lost World of Classical Legal Thought: Law and Ideology in America, 1886-1937

byWilliam M. Wiecek

Paperback | February 15, 2001

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This book examines the ideology of elite lawyers and judges from the Gilded Age through the New Deal. Between 1866 and 1937, a coherent outlook shaped the way the American bar understood the sources of law, the role of the courts, and the relationship between law and the larger society.William M. Wiecek explores this outlook--often called "legal orthodoxy" or "classical legal thought"--which assumed that law was apolitical, determinate, objective, and neutral. American classical legal thought was forged in the heat of the social crises that punctuated the late nineteenth century. Fearing labor unions, immigrants, and working people generally, American elites, including those on the bench and bar, sought ways to repress disorder and prevent politicalmajorities from using democratic processes to redistribute wealth and power. Classical legal thought provided a rationale that assured the legitimacy of the extant distribution of society's resources. It enabled the legal suppression of unions and the subordination of workers to management'sauthority. As the twentieth-century U.S. economy grew in complexity, the antiregulatory, individualistic bias of classical legal thought became more and more distanced from reality. Brittle and dogmatic, legal ideology lost legitimacy in the eyes of both laypeople and ever-larger segments of the bar. It wasat last abandoned in the "constitutional revolution of 1937", but--as Wiecek argues in this detailed analysis--nothing has arisen since to replace it as an explanation of what law is and why courts have such broad power in a democratic society.

About The Author

William M. Wiecek is Congdon Professor of Public Law at Syracuse University
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Title:The Lost World of Classical Legal Thought: Law and Ideology in America, 1886-1937Format:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 8.9 × 5.91 × 0.91 inPublished:February 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195147138

ISBN - 13:9780195147131

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"William Wiecek's Lost World of Classical Thought reads like a first-rate legal mystery story. We have always known that the 'switch in time that saved nine' in 1937 was a crucial turning point in the history of the jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court. But it wasn't very clear how theanti-New Deal attitudes of the pre-1937 Court derived from what Wiecek calls the 'classical' jurisprudence of the late nineteenth century. Nor have we known how the post-1937, but pre-Warren, New Deal Court built its own distinctive jurisprudence. Wiecek's account tells that story, and in so doinghelps us understand the origins of the truly modern jurisprudence of the 1950s. Everyone who wonders how the preconditions of the Warren Court were constructed will want to read this absorbing and important book."--Stanley N. Katz, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University