Normative Jurisprudence Symposium: Promise for the Normative in Critical Race Theory

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7 Responses

  1. Paul Horwitz says:

    This is, of course, a fascinating comment, with lots to reflect on. But I am wondering about this statement:

    “CLS died because too many of the people who wrote and taught it were poor role models for the potential young reformers they had a chance to educate. The founding “Crits” –- many of them—sat in the comfy chairs in elite universities and educated people headed for capitalist employment. These Crits’ anti-establishment claims rang false. Sure, they might teach in jeans and wear their hair a little longer, but were they putting their bodies and spirits on the line to help move the world in radically new directions?”

    That may be true. But how is that not also true of CRT? Or the other schools of scholarship you mention, or just about any scholarly branch of any intellectual movement?

  2. I rather think, given the peculiar intellectual and value commitments of CLS teachers, the lack of any radical praxis or commitments outside law schools proper would and should be seen as a shortcoming, as such praxis should inform one’s theorizing. Apart from the obvious plethora of historical examples from the 1960s, nice illustrations of this are often found in such fields as political science and, especially, sociology, where academics on the Left are, at the same time, intellectuals and engaged (in philosophy, John Dewey was exemplary in this way). Young people who are idealistic and not simply careerists are indeed put off by folks who can talk a good talk but can’t (so to speak) walk the walk (practice what they preach as we used to say). Life in the modern technocratic and corporate university (the salaries, the perks, the glamor…) can and often does amount to life in an ivory tower, and the Left, be it New, Post-modern, feminist, what have you, is hardly immune from its attractions and temptations (the subject of Russell Jacoby’s 1987 book, The Last Intellectuals).

  3. Paul Horwitz says:

    Patrick, I find that I can either give a long reply or an insufficient short one and have to choose, so I’m going with the short one. Taking most of your points as givens for the sake of argument, I’m still not convinced that it helps us differentiate CRT from other legal movements including CLS, particularly once we put to one side “bland” invocations of CRT, per the post above. One may say many things about Prof. Bell leaving Harvard, some of them laudatory, but I don’t think replacing Harvard with NYU seriously counts as putting one’s body or spirit on the line. It is in the nature of the leading figures in intellectual movements in the law schools to sit in comfy chairs, and I don’t think this adequately distinguishes CLS from CRT.

  4. Paul,

    I wasn’t thinking so much of the comparison with CRT in particular, and it may not indeed be distinguishable on this score.

  5. Orin Kerr says:

    Fascinating, Anita. As Paul says, there is lots to reflect on.

    I took a class from Duncan Kennedy when I was in law school, and I found him very entertaining as a professor. Some of his insights were brilliant. But it seemed to me that his project was more about shocking and impressing the audience than actually achieving legal reforms. Maybe my impression was off, based only on a semester of his teaching, but he seemed more interested in the former than the latter.

  6. Rebecca Lee says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Quite illuminating, and I think movingly shows that not only is the personal political, but the intellectual is personal as well. And for an intellectual movement to gain more adherents and possibly ripen into a social movement, the personal and relational aspect of its current and prospective participants cannot be ignored.

  7. Nha khoa says:

    Thank you for sharing. This knowledge was useful to me !