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The Jurisprudence of Style
A Structuralist History of American Pragmatism and Liberal Legal Thought

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: October 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316610015


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About the Authors
  • In the contemporary domain of American legal thought there is a dominant way in which lawyers and judges craft their argumentative practice. More colloquially, this is a dominant conception of what it means to 'think like a lawyer'. Despite the widespread popularity of this conception, it is rarely described in detail or given a name. Justin Desautels-Stein tells the story of how and why this happened, and why it matters. Drawing upon and updating the work of Harvard Law School's first generation of critical legal studies, Desautels-Stein develops what he calls a jurisprudence of style. In doing so, he uncovers the intellectual alliance, first emerging at the end of the nineteenth century and maturing in the last third of the twentieth century, between American pragmatism and liberal legal thought. Applying the tools of legal structuralism and phenomenology to real-world cases in areas of contemporary legal debate, this book develops a practice-oriented understanding of legal thought.

    • Offers new interpretations of legal history, pragmatism and jurisprudence
    • Explains the problems with contemporary liberalism, for readers who want to understand criticisms of pragmatism and liberal legal thought
    • Supports courses in legal history, American legal thought, American intellectual history, critical legal theory, and jurisprudence
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this wide-ranging and masterful work, Justin Desautels-Stein explores, dissects, and critiques what it means to think like a lawyer in today's hegemonic context of liberal legal thought. Drawing on art history and musicology, ranging from the anthropologist Philippe Descola to the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus, from Roland Barthes to Michel Foucault, Desautels-Stein creatively reinvigorates the Harvard School of legal structuralism to expose the deep historical, structural, and conceptual illusions of contemporary pragmatic legal liberal thought.' Bernard E. Harcourt, author of The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order

    'An engrossing, at times deeply moving effort to recover the unity and purpose of critical legal studies.' Charles Sabel, Columbia Law School, New York

    'A fascinating contribution to critical legal thought in the United States. Desautels-Stein revisits and reinterprets American legal pragmatism alongside late twentieth century efforts to assess and critique its practice. His direct informal style brings complex theoretical debates to life.' David Kennedy, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316610015
    • length: 317 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 151 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The rise and fall of the Harvard School
    2. Towards a jurisprudence of style
    3. Structure and style in time
    4. The classical style 5. The modern style
    6. Liberal legalism and the context of legal thought
    7. American pragmatism
    8. Liberal legalism is dead: long live liberal legalism
    9. Trompe L'oeil liberalism

  • Author

    Justin Desautels-Stein, University of Colorado Boulder
    Justin Desautels-Stein is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Boulder.

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