Book Review: The Politics of Law


At the end of this collection of essays critical of law, law schools, and legal ideology, Victor Rabinowitz reminds us of another such collection, Robert Lefcourt’s Law Against the People,’ published at the beginning of the last decade. Like this book, Lefcourt’s was a landmark, not because the pieces in it were so excellent-many of them were ill-conceived and rough, as are some of the pieces in The Politics of Law-but because it summed up, as this book does, a set of attitudes about law that were increasingly widespread. Lefcourt and many of his contributors, reflecting that era of political show trials and resistance to the draft, embraced a version of what I call, in my mental shorthand, the “cat’s paw” theory of the law: “that the law as an institution is an instrument of the bourgeoisie designed to deceive and oppress the mass of the people, and the lawyer is necessarily a part of this machinery.” While that theory is currently disfavored as being untenable in the long run, it at least had the virtue of apparent simplicity. The critique expressed or implied in much of Kairys’s collection is more subtle and puzzling, even when the writers swing from the floor at the legal system.

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