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Pragmatic Liberalism: The Outlook of the Dead

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Pragmatic Liberalism: The Outlook of the Dead
PRAGMATIC LIBERALISM:
THE OUTLOOK OF THE DEAD
JUSTIN DESAUTELS-STEIN *
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Abstract: At the turn of the twentieth century, the legal profession was rocked in
a storm of reform. Among the sparks of change was the view that “law in the
books” had drifted too far from the “law in action.” This popular slogan reflected
the broader postwar suspicion that the legal profession needed to be more realistic, more effective, and more in touch with the social needs of the time. A hundred years later, we face a similarly urgent demand for change. Across the blogs
and journals stretches a thread of anxieties about the lack of fit between legal education and legal work and the meaning of best practice in a world still flailing in
the economic wake of 2008. In a sense, we are experiencing a collective crisis of
legal identity. This Article confronts this crisis with the instinct that many of the
profession’s challenges are symptomatic of a deeper, structural crisis about what
it means to “think like a lawyer.” We are often told that the key takeaway of legal
education has precisely to do with this phrase, which we can unpack as referring
to the mastery of a set of techniques, patterns, and modes of legal reasoning. But
what if these techniques were themselves in a state of crisis? What if it turned out
that the deeply conflicted nature of legal thought was a source of the surface
problems with which we are more familiar? It is with these questions in mind
that this Article diagnoses the crisis in contemporary legal thought.
INTRODUCTION
Most of us know the unpleasantries of crisis. Of course, the crises we
have known are sometimes not all that crisis-like, such as when we face the
“crisis” of what to wear tonight or where to eat. Of the more serious sort, there
are the usual suspects. There is the well-chronicled crisis of teen angst. There
is the mid-life crisis with its Corvettes and the crisis of old-age, grasping for
the point of it all. There is the schizophrenic. And then there are other types of
© 2014, Justin Desautels-Stein. All rights reserved.
* Associate Professor, University of Colorado Law School. I received helpful feedback from
Paulo Barrozo, Amy Cohen, Jennifer Hendricks, David Kennedy, Duncan Kennedy, Derek KiernanJohnson, Luke Mecklenburg, Pierre Schlag, Jack Schlegel, Bill Simon, Chris Tomlins, Emilyn Winkelmeyer, and participants at a colloquium at Harvard Law School, held June 5–6, 2013.
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identity crisis: questions about racial, ethnic, or cultural belonging, religious
affiliation, sexuality, and so on. But of whatever kind the crisis is, if it is for
real, we tend to expect the presence of a deep internal conflict giving rise to
the search for meaningful identity. 1
Now, if the idea of identity crisis is relatively familiar, what if we turn
from so-called personal identities to professional ones? 2 Does a crisis of “legal
identity” even make sense? If it does make sense, then there is little doubt that,
at least here in the United States, it is an identity in crisis. 3 Worries range from
those about the transformation of the job market for law school graduates to
the nature of the big firm to legal education’s inadequacy in tracking the real
demands on the practicing lawyer. 4 Of course, some of these concerns are not
really all that new. 5 But whatever we think of the pedigree of any one of these
anxieties, it is difficult to deny that here in the second decade of the twentyfirst century the legal profession is under assault. 6 Crisis is upon us.
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1
My intention is not to engage in Erikson’s original sense of “identity crisis” or other more technical uses. See generally ERIK ERIKSON, Identity Crisis in Perspective, in LIFE HISTORY AND THE
HISTORICAL MOMENT (1975). Rather, I’m using it more in the vernacular sense of an unexpected
danger threatening to destabilize the identity of some given system. See THE SHORTER OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY: ON HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES 1311 (W.R. Trumble & Stevenson eds., 5th ed. 2002).
For a more ambitious treatment of “crisis” as a historical concept, see REINHART KOSELLECK, THE
PRACTICE OF CONCEPTUAL HISTORY: TIMING HISTORY, SPACING CONCEPTS 236–47 (2002).
2
In speaking of professional identities, I don’t mean to refer to more familiar kinds of “career
crisis.” See, e.g., Robert J. Sternberg, Coping with a Career Crisis, CHRON. OF HIGHER EDUC. (Jan.
27, 2014), http://chronicle.com/article/Coping-With-a-Career-Crisis/144191/?cid=cr&utm_source=
cr&utm_medium=en, archived at http://perma.cc/AN9K-F5G2 (discussing career crises as distinct
obstacles, such as resigning from a poorly fitting position). My target is something deeper and more
systemic.
3
In this Article, I exclude other anxieties often associated with the legal profession, including the
ethical aspects of lawyering, lawyer jokes, and the like.
4
See, e.g., JAMES E. MOLITERNO, THE AMERICAN LEGAL PROFESSION IN CRISIS: RESISTANCE
AND RESPONSES TO CHANGE (2013); Ethan Bronner, Law Schools’ Applications Fall as Costs Rise
and Jobs Are Cut, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 30, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/education/lawschools-applications-fall-as-costs-rise-and-jobs-are-cut.html?pagewanted=all, archived at http://perma.
cc/Z7P9-P675; Jacob Gershman, Number of LSAT Test Takers is Down 45% Since 2009, WALL ST. J.,
Oct. 31, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/10/31/number-of-lsat-test-takers-is-down-45-since-2009/,
archived at http://perma.cc/HJ52-5TPJ; Katherine Mangan, Law Deans Confront a “New Normal” as
Schools Adjust to Job Market Changes, CHRON. OF HIGHER EDUC., Jan. 6, 2013, http://chronicle.
com/article/Law-Deans-Confront-a-New/136507/, archived at http://perma.cc/MLN9-SFKW.
5
See, e.g, Marc Galanter, Why the “Haves” Come out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal
Change, 9 LAW & SOC’Y REV. 95 (1974); Stewart Macaulay, Non-Contractual Relations in Business:
A Preliminary Study, 28 AM. SOC. REV. 55 (1963).
6
See, e.g., Paul Campos, Legal Academia and the Blindness of the Elites, 37 HARV. J.L. & PUB.
POL’Y 179, 180 (2014). Of course, it isn’t necessary to agree with this particular view of the problem
in order to think that in the United States there is presently a crisis of legal identity. See generally
PIERRE SCHLAG, THE ENCHANTMENT OF REASON (1998).
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And so, it is in this shadow that this Article confronts the question of our
professional identity as lawyers. This confrontation begins with a suspicion.
Perhaps what we presently experience as the surface manifestations of a legal
profession in disarray can be analyzed as problems going to the very core of
what it means to “think like a lawyer.” 7 Or to put this suspicion another way,
what if the anxieties plaguing law schools and firms alike are symptoms of a
more serious ambiguity at the heart of our legal identity? If the profession is
indeed in a state of crisis, perhaps the root of it has something to do with our
confusion about what it means to do a lawyer’s work.
Ultimately, this Article presents the following thesis: underlying the profession’s problems sits a distinct manner of organizing, shaping, and finally
stabilizing the way we think about what counts as a legal problem or solution.
This “manner” is the product of two very different outlooks that have only recently come into contact with one another. They are “liberal legalism” 8 and
“legal pragmatism,” 9 and, as I discuss below, the recent encounter between the
two has yielded “pragmatic liberalism.” 10 Pragmatic liberalism, I suggest, is
the deeper, structural source of the identity crisis now plaguing the legal profession. 11 As a result, if we hope to successfully realize calls for legal reform,
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See generally KARL LLEWELLYN, THE BRAMBLE BUSH: THE CLASSIC LECTURES ON LAW AND
LAW SCHOOL (2008).
8
This term has quite a bit of baggage. In addition to its association with critical legal studies, it
has also become an object of inquiry among some historians. See, e.g., LAURA KALMAN, THE
STRANGE CAREER OF LEGAL LIBERALISM 85, 265 n.52 (1996). Laura Kalman, for example, prefers to
call it “legal liberalism” due to the “pejorative” connotations she identifies with “liberal legalism.”
Laura Kalman, Border Patrol: Reflections on the Turn to History in Legal Scholarship, 66 FORDHAM
L. REV. 87, 89 n.9 (1997). But more important than the order in which the words are arranged is the
meaning we attach to the phrase. Id. at 90 (arguing that “legal liberalism” is fundamentally connected
with the progressive social agenda that emerged after World War II). My own use of “liberal legalism” is much broader. See generally Justin Desautels-Stein, The Market as a Legal Concept, 60 BUFF.
L. REV. 387 (2012) [hereinafter Desautels-Stein, Market]; Justin Desautels-Stein, A Structuralist Approach to the Two State Action Doctrines, 7 N.Y.U. J.L. & LIBERTY 254 (2013) [hereinafter Desautels-Stein, State Action].
9
Legal pragmatism is another phrase with a patchwork of meanings. See generally Brian E. Butler, Law as a Democratic Means: Deweyan Jurisprudence and Democratic Experimentalism, 9 CONTEMP. PRAGMATISM 241 (2012) (providing a helpful discussion on the meaning of the term); Justin
Desautels-Stein, At War with the Eclectics: Mapping Pragmatism in Contemporary Legal Analysis,
2007 MICH. ST. L. REV. 565 (2007) [hereinafter Desautels-Stein, Eclectics] (discussing legal pragmatism).
10
See infra notes 205–331 and accompanying text.
11
These references to “structure,” as explained below, are semiotic in orientation. See infra notes
49–92 and accompanying text. This Article’s use of legal semiotics here is rather different from Jack
Balkin’s much more well-known usage. See generally J.M. Balkin, The Crystalline Structure of Legal
Thought, 39 RUTGERS L. REV. 1 (1986); J.M. Balkin, Nested Oppositions, 99 YALE L.J. 1669 (1990);
J.M. Balkin, The Promise of Legal Semiotics, 69 TEX. L. REV. 1831 (1991). Balkin’s usage of the
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we need to better understand what it is that we are reforming. At the end of the
day, the object of reform must be these deeper sources of contemporary legal
thought; that is, pragmatic liberalism itself.
This Article’s portrayal of pragmatic liberalism and its structuring role in
contemporary legal thought unfolds as follows. Part I begins with legal method,
for the reason that there simply is no neutral or natural way of approaching “contemporary legal thought.” 12 After all, what counts? 13 The legal thoughts of all
people everywhere? Or only the legal thoughts of the elites? But who are the
elites? How do we know? Although these questions may have once been answered with ease, in today’s legal historiography, claims about periodization are
relentlessly deconstructed. 14 The historiographical method I am interested in
here, and that emerged in this post-objectivist world of deconstruction, is “structuralist.” 15 The term “structuralism” has been used to mean many things, 16 but
here I use it to refer to that brand of social theory grounded in the semiotics of
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term is not without its critics. See generally Jeremy Paul, The Politics of Legal Semiotics, 69 TEX. L.
REV. 1779 (1991); Pierre Schlag, “Le Hors de Texte C’est Moi”: The Politics of Form and the Domestication of Deconstruction, 11 CARDOZO L. REV. 1631 (1990). But see generally J.M. Balkin,
Transcendental Deconstruction, Transcendent Justice, 92 MICH. L. REV. 1131 (1994) (responding to
criticisms).
12
See infra notes 49–92 and accompanying text. See generally Symposium, Theorizing Contemporary Legal Thought, 78 LAW & CONTEMP. PROBS. (forthcoming 2015).
13
Robert Gordon’s work has proved especially interesting on these questions. See generally Robert W. Gordon, The Past as Authority and as Social Critic: Stabilizing and Destabilizing Functions of
History in Legal Argument, in THE HISTORIC TURN IN THE HUMAN SCIENCES (Terrence J. McDonald
ed., 1996); Robert W. Gordon, Foreword: The Arrival of Critical Historicism, 49 STAN. L. REV. 1023
(1997); Robert W. Gordon, Critical Legal Histories, 36 STAN. L. REV. 57 (1984) [hereinafter Gordon,
Critical Legal Histories].
14
For examples of how these questions are deconstructed and analyzed, see generally William W.
Fisher III, Texts and Contexts: The Application to American Legal History of the Methodologies of
Intellectual History, 49 STAN. L. REV. 1065 (1997); Christopher Tomlins, History in the American
Juridical Field: Narrative, Justification, and Explanation, 16 YALE J.L. & HUMAN. 323 (2004); G.
Edward White, The Arrival of History in Constitutional Scholarship, 88 VA. L. REV. 485 (2002).
15
See HAYDEN WHITE, METAHISTORY: THE HISTORICAL IMAGINATION IN NINETEENTHCENTURY EUROPE 7 (1975); HAYDEN WHITE, THE CONTENT OF THE FORM: NARRATIVE DISCOURSE
AND HISTORICAL REPRESENTATION 139 (1987). For other examples of this historiographyical method, see generally HAYDEN WHITE, TROPICS OF DISCOURSE: ESSAYS IN CULTURAL CRITICISM (1978);
HAYDEN WHITE, THE FICTION OF NARRATIVE: ESSAYS ON HISTORY, LITERATURE, AND THEORY,
1957–2007 (2010); HAYDEN WHITE, FIGURAL REALISM: STUDIES IN THE MIMESIS EFFECT (1999).
For a discussion of White’s work, see generally Symposium, Hayden White: Twenty Five Years On,
37 HIST. & THEORY (1998).
16
For examples of differing uses of the term, see generally EDWARD THOMPSON, THE POVERTY
OF THEORY (1978); Nicola Faith Sharpe, Process over Structure: An Organizational Behavioral Approach to Improving Corporate Boards, 85 S. CAL. L. REV. 261 (2012).
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the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. 17 With this lens, structuralism presents
a method for analyzing social practices as discrete language-systems. 18 In establishing the conceptual frame of reference for my approach to contemporary legal
thought, I look at law in semiotic terms: specific instances of legal argument are
likened to a lexicon or working vocabulary of law, while the broader field of
legal production is likened to the constitutive grammar that controls the forms of
the lexicon. 19 This distinction tracks Saussure’s famous pairing of grammar
(langue) and lexicon (parole). 20
After this brief summary, the discussion turns to the most developed attempt we have so far in getting at the content of contemporary legal thought:
Duncan Kennedy’s recent work on legal structuralism. 21 Kennedy’s understanding of contemporary legal thought provides the point of departure for my
own. Kennedy has developed three overlapping structures of legal thought
ranging from the US Civil War to the present. 22 He labels them “classical legal
thought,” “social legal thought,” and “contemporary legal thought.” 23 With
respect to the first two structures, Kennedy describes them in semiotic terms,
and suggests that for each structure we can distinguish between surface-level
legal arguments (parole) and a deep grammar governing and shaping the form
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For discussions on Saussure’s work, see generally THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO SAUSSURE (CAROL SANDERS ED., 2004); JONATHAN CULLER, FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE (1986); ROY
HARRIS, READING SAUSSURE: A CRITICAL COMMENTARY ON THE COURS DE LINGUISTIQUE GÉNÉRALE (1987); FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE, COURSE IN GENERAL LINGUISTICS (1959) [hereinafter
SAUSSURE, GENERAL COURSE]; FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE, WRITINGS IN GENERAL LINGUISTICS
(2002).
18
See generally, e.g., CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS, THE SAVAGE MIND (1966) (exploring structuralism in anthropological field). In the hands of the French intellectual elite, structuralist analyses took a
given field, say fashion, and suggested that the style of dress in a particular community could be explained as a language-system. JONATHAN CULLER, Introduction, in STRUCTURALISM: CRITICAL CONCEPTS 3 (2006). Just as French is governed by a deep grammar and syntax (langue), scholars like
Roland Barthes suggested that there was a language of fashion—fashion was spoken through the medium of dress. See generally ROLAND BARTHES, THE FASHION SYSTEM (1990). And just as French
utterances might take a mind-boggling number of forms (what Saussure called “parole”), so too are
there many, many ways to dress.
19
See infra notes 49–54 and accompanying text. For an overview of the application of structuralist methodology to law, see Justin Desautels-Stein, Structuralist Legal Histories, in LAW AND CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS (forthcoming 2015).
20
See SAUSSURE, GENERAL COURSE, supra note 17, at 73.
21
See infra notes 56–92 and accompanying text. For examples of this recent work, see generally
Duncan Kennedy, Three Globalizations of Law and Legal Thought 1850–2000, in THE NEW LAW
AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL (David Trubek & Alvaro Santos eds., 2006)
[hereinafter Kennedy, Three Globalizations]; Duncan Kennedy, The Hermeneutic of Suspicion in
Contemporary Legal Thought, 25 L. & CRITIQUE 91 (2014) [hereinafter Kennedy, Hermeneutic].
22
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 19–22.
23
Id.
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of those arguments (langue). 24 In contemporary legal thought, however, Kennedy resists the idea that there is a “contemporary” grammar that is as integrated or developed as in the prior structures. 25 In fact, Kennedy suggests that contemporary legal thought lacks integration, 26 leading to a question we might
more typically associate with art historians than with legal scholars: Is there a
contemporary at all? 27
Part II next moves away from Kennedy’s characterizations and towards
my own. In my approach to classical and social legal thought, I reorient these
systems in the language of liberal legalism. 28 Though a familiar player in the
early legal structuralist works of the 1970s and early 1980s, 29 liberal legalism
became less popular as an object of analysis as the twentieth century came to a
close. 30 In my account, liberal legalism is front and center. The target of my
structuralist approach is neither “American law” nor “global law,” but is exclusively limited to the language of liberal legalism, wherever in the world it
might reside.
As for what it is, for the purposes of this analysis I take liberal legalism as
a family of ideas about the appropriate social function of law derived from the
likes of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, John
Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek, and John Rawls. 31 The ideas of these thinkers are
often in conflict, and it is a mistake to understand them as all speaking with the
same voice. In certain ways, however, a master-langue underlies the surface
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Id. at 23.
Id. at 63.
26
Id.
27
See, e.g., RICHARD MEYER, WHAT WAS CONTEMPORARY ART? 259–61 (2013).
28
See infra notes 93–204 and accompanying text.
29
For examples of liberal legalism’s role in early structuralist works, see generally Duncan Kennedy, Form and Substance in Private Law Adjudication, 89 HARV. L. REV. 1685 (1976); Betty
Mensch, Freedom of Contract as Ideology, 33 STAN. L. REV. 753 (1981). For examples of the use of
legal liberalism during this time, see generally P.S. ATIYAH, THE RISE AND FALL OF FREEDOM OF
CONTRACT (1979); Frances E. Olsen, The Family and the Market: A Study of Ideology and Legal
Reform, 96 HARV. L. REV. 1497 (1983); David M. Trubek, Toward a Social Theory of Law: An Essay
on the Study of Law and Development, 82 YALE L.J. 1 (1972); Mark V. Tushnet, Following the Rules
Laid Down: A Critique of Interpretivism and Neutral Principles, 96 HARV. L. REV. 781 (1983).
30
For discussion, see generally Justin Desautels-Stein, supra note 19.
31
See, e.g., ROBERTO MANGABEIRA UNGER, KNOWLEDGE & POLITICS 63–103 (1975) (discussing liberal political theory). By referencing a “family of ideas,” I am only very casually nodding in the
direction of Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblances. In this essay, I only incidentally, if I do at
all, speak in the tradition of the analytic philosophy of language. On family resemblances, see generally LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS 66 (4th ed. 2009). On the philosophy
of language, see generally JOHN SEARLE, CONSCIOUSNESS AND LANGUAGE (2002).
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distinctions between them, coalescing in a uniting grammar. 32 This grammar
discloses a loose series of binary pairs. First is the pair of ideas about the relation between “individual” and “state.” 33 Second is a pair about the relation
between “market” and “state.” 34 Third is a relation between “natural law” and
“positive law,” 35 often translated through a particular contrast between adjudication and legislation. 36 By dunking Kennedy’s structures of legal thought in
the waters of liberal legalism, “classical legal thought” becomes “classic liberalism” and “social legal thought” becomes “modern liberalism.”
Part III next turns from this discussion of liberal legalism and takes on the
second culprit accounting for today’s crisis of legal identity: legal pragmatism.
In so doing, this Article translates Kennedy’s concept of “contemporary legal
thought” into “pragmatic liberalism.” 37 That is, and unlike Kennedy, I suggest
that contemporary legal thought is a new, viable, and integrated legal structure,
and that its basis is pragmatic liberalism. 38 Kennedy, on the other hand, describes contemporary legal thought as the altered debris left over after the assaults on the classical and social structures. 39 In my view, Kennedy’s description
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32
As will hopefully become clear, my intention in emphasizing liberal legalism is not to offer a
defense of the sorts of intellectual history associated with Louis Hartz. See generally LOUIS HARTZ,
THE LIBERAL TRADITION IN AMERICA: AN INTERPRETATION OF AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT
SINCE THE REVOLUTION (1955). For better examples of what I’m after here, see generally ALISDAIR
MACINTYRE, AFTER VIRTUE (1980); MARTTI KOSKENNIEMI, FROM APOLOGY TO UTOPIA: THE
STRUCTURE OF LEGAL ARGUMENT (2006).
33
See Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” in KARL MARX: SELECTED WRITINGS 60 (David
McLellan ed., 2d ed. 2000) (“Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else.
The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the
boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post . . . . [T]he right of man to liberty is
based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right
of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself.”)
34
See KARL POLANYI, THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION: THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ORIGINS
OF OUR TIME 141 (Beacon Press 2001) (“Economic liberalism was the organizing principle of society
engaged in creating a market system. Born as a mere penchant for nonbureaucratic methods, it
evolved into a veritable faith in man’s secular salvation through a self-regulating market.” Id. Polanyi
continued, “[Nevertheless,] [t]he road to the free market was opened and kept open by an enormous
increase in continuous, centrally organized and controlled interventionism . . . . This paradox was
topped by another. While laissez-faire economy was the product of deliberate state action, subsequent
restrictions on laissez-faire started in a spontaneous way. Laissez-faire was planned; planning was
not.” Id. at 146–47.
35
See, e.g., H.L.A. HART, THE CONCEPT OF LAW 185–212 (1997).
36
See, e.g., RONALD DWORKIN, LAW’S EMPIRE 164–66 (1986).
37
Cf., Justin Desautels-Stein, Experimental Pragmatism in the Third Globalization, 9 CONTEMP.
PRAGMATISM 181, 187–89 (2012) [hereinafter Desautels-Stein, Experimental Pragmatism].
38
I should be clear: my description of pragmatic liberalism ought not to be confused for a defense
of pragmatic liberalism. Although I do not present a critique of pragmatic liberalism in this Article, I
am not an apologist for it.
39
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 63–71.
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is more helpfully understood as a story about liberal legalism and its devolution
over the twentieth century. 40 Today, classic liberalism and modern liberalism
emerge as the outlooks of the dead, offering the jurist a deeply conflicted toolkit
of discredited and overused modes of legal argument. 41
But what is fascinating is the sublimation of this apparently neurotic quality of contemporary legal thought. There is something in the contemporary that
not only shields the jurist from worries about the failings of liberal legalism,
but something that additionally encourages the jurist to feel confident about the
workability of the toolkit. 42 Though we may have lost faith in the singular
power of either the classical or modern grammar, we are oddly complacent
about using some combination of those grammars so long as the job gets done.
So long as it works. 43 As a result, the semiotic langue of contemporary legal
thought may be defined by the pragmatic oscillation between the classic and
modern legal styles of navigating liberalism’s master-langue. This “pragmatic
oscillation” is itself a grammar—the grammar of contemporary legal thought.
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40
For further discussion on this point, see generally Desautels-Stein, Structuralist Legal Histories, supra note 19.
41
For related accounts, see generally David Kennedy, When Renewal Repeats: Thinking Against
the Box, 32 N.Y.U. J. INT’L L. & POL. 335 (2000); Pierre Schlag, The Aesthetics of American Law,
115 HARV. L. REV. 1047 (2002).
42
On this point, I have been especially influenced by ROBERTO MANGABEIRA UNGER, WHAT
SHOULD LEGAL ANALYSIS BECOME? 108–10 (1996) [hereinafter UNGER, LEGAL ANALYSIS]; ROBERTO MANGABEIRA UNGER, THE SELF AWAKENED: PRAGMATISM UNBOUND (2009). I believe that
Duncan Kennedy’s recent engagement with Paul Ricoeur’s “hermeneutic or restoration” is moving in
a similar direction. Kennedy, Hermeneutic, supra note 21, at 107 (“In developing the notion of a hermeneutic of suspicion as something common to Freud, Nietzsche and Marx, Paul Ricoeur insisted that
it is part of a matched pair, or has a twin, called ‘hermeneutics as the restoration of meaning.’ ‘The
contrary of suspicion, I will say bluntly, is faith. What faith? No longer, to be sure, the first faith of the
simple soul, but rather the second faith of one who has engaged in hermeneutics, faith that has undergone criticism, post-critical faith.’” Kennedy argues that:
The hermeneutic of the restoration of legal meaning animates the method of construction in induction/deduction, or the positing of overarching purposes of the legal order in
teleological reasoning. It is a disposition, like the disposition of its twin to doubt and
unmask, a tendency, in this case to search for and find values immanent in the body of
legal materials, to believe in those values, and to deploy the techniques of legal argument to develop and apply them to shape the legal order through time.
Id. at 107–08.
43
For an illustration of the pragmatist sensibility I’m describing, see Paul Lipp, Is Practicing Law
Like Creating Art? A.B.A. J. (Nov. 21, 2013), http://www.abajournal.com/legalrebels/article/is_
practicing_law_like_creating_art/, archived at http://perma.cc/ZCP4-S8WU (“[L]aw is a system, and the
bigger and more complex the system, the less effective ‘art’ style approaches are in getting good results.
Uniqueness may be more of a negative than a positive. Most sophisticated legal work is ‘pattern matching,’ applying the most similar known example to the problem at hand to help achieve the desired result.
That’s neither art nor commodity; it’s just the appropriate method for the problem at hand.”).
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When legal pragmatism mixes with the liberal legalist modes of reasoning operating today in the work of lawyers and judges alike, the result is a very
strange outlook indeed: pragmatic liberalism.
No doubt, some readers will be skeptical that the discussion so far has anything to do with the crisis now plaguing the legal profession. For them, it may
very well be interesting to think about the “neuroses” of legal thought, but
when it comes down to whether students are adequately prepared for the “new
normal,” or whether the old law school curriculum makes any sense in the
twenty-first century, the push needs to be in the direction of reform that really
works in practice, and away from the abstractions of high theory. Of course,
one sort of reply points out that rather than having supplied an objection, my
imagined reader has merely evidenced precisely the kind of pragmatic sensibility that I am trying to diagnose. Another reply suggests that the instinct to establish a hard line between something called theory and another thing called
practice is an instinct with its own theoretical pre-requisites. 44 That is, when
we prioritize the apparently practical over the apparently theoretical, and believe in the possibility of somehow engaging in “un-theorized” forms of practice, we mistake this kind of prioritizing as somehow pre-theoretic, which it
never is. 45 As I explain below, pragmatism is itself a theoretical outlook. 46
It is in this context that I cannot help but recall Pierre Schlag’s wellknown image of the night-hikers. 47 It is worth quoting at some length:
44F
45F
46F
47F
Suppose that you are walking on a road and you come to a fork. This
calls for a decision, for a choice. So you ask your companions:
“Which fork should we take? Where should we go?” You all begin to
talk about it, to consider the possibilities, to weigh the considerations.
Given these circumstances, given this sort of problem, the questions,
“Where should we go? What should we do?” are perfectly sensible.
44
I don’t want to be misunderstood here for suggesting that the pragmatist sensibility merely
needs to be reversed, and that theory ought to dominate practice. Rather, it is the very distinction between theory and practice which is problematic. For further discussion on the distinction, see generally PIERRE BOURDIEU, OUTLINE OF A THEORY OF PRACTICE 1, 29 (1977); STANLEY FISH, DOING
WHAT COMES NATURALLY: CHANGE, RHETORIC, AND THE PRACTICE OF THEORY IN LITERARY AND
LEGAL STUDIES (1989).
45
As Herbert Marcuse commented in a rather different situation, “[t]he divorce of thought from
action, of theory from practice, is itself part of the unfree world. No thought and no theory (alone) can
undo it.” HERBERT MARCUSE, REASON AND REVOLUTION, at xii (1941).
46
See infra notes 212–214 and accompanying text.
47
See Pierre Schlag, Normativity and the Politics of Form, 139 U. PA. L. REV. 801, 805–06
(1991).
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But now suppose that it gets dark and the terrain becomes less
familiar. You are no longer sure which road you are on or even if
you are on a road at all. So you ask, “where are we?” One of your
companions says “I don’t know—I think we should just keep going
forward.” Another one says, “I think we should just go back.” Yet
another says “No, I think we should go left.” Now given the right
context, each of these suggestions can be perfectly sensible. But not
in this context. Not anymore. On the contrary, you know very well
that going forward, backward, left or in any other direction makes
no sense unless you happen to know where you are. So, of course,
you try to figure out where you are. You look around for telltale
signs. You scan the horizon. You try to reconstruct mentally how
you got here in the first place. You explore. You even start thinking
about how to figure out where you are.
Meanwhile, if your companions keep asking “But what should we
do? Which road should we take?,” you are likely to think that these
kinds of questions are not particularly helpful. The questions (Where
should we go? Which fork should we take?) that seemed to make so
much sense a short time back have now become a hindrance. And if
your companions keep up this sort of questioning (Which road
should we take? Which way should we go?), you’re going to start
wondering about how to get them to focus on the new situation, how
to get them to drop this “fork in the road” stuff and start using a different metaphor. 48
48F
It strikes me that our present crisis of legal identity has much in common
with Schlag’s depiction. The situation has darkened, and the terrain is unfamiliar,
or at least less familiar than it once was. But what should we do? How to reform? My instinct is to chasten the pragmatist sensibility lashing us “forward,”
and ask instead some deeper questions about just what it is that’s going on here.
Perhaps, that is, our efforts will benefit more from mapping the crisis and figuring out how it is that we arrived, rather than just taking the plunge. Further still,
we will need a compass, and it is in the service of that need that the discussion
now turns.
48
See id.
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I. THE STRUCTURALIST METHOD
Legal structuralism is a view of law informed by semiotics, and in particular, Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory of language. As a result, legal structuralism
is indebted to Saussure’s distinction between the French terms langue and parole. 49 For Saussure, langue refers to the fundamental rules of syntax in the linguistic structure. 50 As Saussure explained, the langue represents “the whole set
of linguistic habits which allow an individual to understand and be understood.” 51 The langue is consequently social in nature and determinate in scope:
individuals cannot make up their own grammar. The langue is a system of syntactical constraints operating equally on each language speaker. Its contents are
fixed and closed, and in the context of the system, universal. 52 In contrast to the
underlying grammar of the language-system is the language’s lexicon: parole.
Parole refers to the open, arbitrary, and individually-created speech-acts uttered
in conformity with the deep structure of the langue. 53 Thus, where langue is unconscious and out of sight, parole is intentional and visible. Where langue represents a field of coercion, parole is free. And where parole is apparent and everywhere, langue is only discoverable through an analysis of the common qualities demonstrable in parole. 54
In the middle decades of the twentieth century, thinkers catapulted semiotics into a broader theorization of society known as structuralism. 55 Through49F
50F
51F
52F
53F
54F
55F
49
TERRENCE HAWKES, STRUCTURALISM AND SEMIOTICS 9 (2003).
SAUSSURE, GENERAL COURSE, supra note 17, at 77.
51
Id.
52
Id. at 73.
53
Id. at 76.
54
See ROSALIND COWARD & JOHN ELLIS, LANGUAGE AND MATERIALISM: DEVELOPMENTS IN
SEMIOLOGY AND THE THEORY OF THE SUBJECT 12 (1977).
55
Borrowing from Troubetzkoy, Lévi-Strauss explained that:
50
First, structural linguistics shifts from the study of conscious linguistic phenomena to
the study of their unconscious infrastructure; second, it does not treat terms as independent entities, taking instead as its basis of analysis the relations between terms;
third, it introduces the concept of system—“Modern phonemics does not merely proclaim that phonemes are always part of a system; it shows concrete phonemic systems
and elucidates their structure”—; finally, structural linguistics aims at discovering general laws, either by induction “or . . . by logical deduction, which would give them an
absolute character.”
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology, in 1 JONATHAN CULLER,
STRUCTURALISM: CRITICAL CONCEPTS, 33 (2006). See generally PETER CAWS, STRUCTURALISM:
THE ART OF THE INTELLIGIBLE (1988) (providing additional discussion); THE STRUCTURALISTS:
FROM MARX TO LÉVI-STRAUSS (Richard T. De George & Fernande M. De George eds., 1972)
(same).
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out his career, Duncan Kennedy has built out of these efforts a structuralist
approach to law. 56 He has developed three overlapping structures of legal
thought ranging from the U.S. Civil War to the present. 57 He labels them “classical legal thought,” “social legal thought,” and “contemporary legal
thought.” 58
The first structure involved the transmission of “classical” ideas from Europe to the United States (1850–1914), 59 the second involved more of a back
and forth cross-Atlantic movement of “social” legal ideas (1900–1968), 60 and
the third, in which we are now living, holds the United States at the core
(1945–2000). 61 As for what was globalizing, Kennedy re-introduced from his
earlier work the notion of “legal consciousness.” 62 Legal consciousness was
not a political ideology or a philosophy of law or a body of doctrine. It rather
consisted in a “conceptual vocabulary, organizational schemes, modes of reasoning, and characteristic arguments.” 63 Kennedy thus described legal consciousness in explicitly structuralist terms, dividing it into langue and parole, 64
and using Claude Levi-Strauss’ concept of bricolage 65 as an explanation for
how legal consciousness reveals itself in any given legal argument. 66
Kennedy first described “classical legal thought,” a language-system anchored by three big ideas: (1) individualism, (2) a strict separation of the private sphere of the common law rules from the public sphere of coercive state
56F
57F
58F
59F
60F
61F
62F
63F
64F
65F
66F
56
DUNCAN KENNEDY, THE RISE AND FALL OF CLASSICAL LEGAL THOUGHT 8 (2006).
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 19–22. It is tempting to confuse each of these
periods of legal thought as a mapping of anything and everything a jurist might have been doing at a
particular time, as if we might say, “here we have a description of postwar law, and there a statement
on law after the Cold War.” That isn’t what this is. See id. Kennedy isn’t telling a “total history” of
legal thought, but is interested instead in constructing a genealogy of legal structures. See id. Further,
Kennedy’s approach to legal description is phenomenological: he wants to construct an image of law
as experienced by the jurist, and avoid any reference to what may or may not have been “really happening” anywhere at a given time. See id. What was globalizing, and what was experienced, was a
mode of legal thought, a style of thinking. To be sure, there’s a connection with the “real” here, but
the “real” isn’t an object from which the analyst makes a dutiful copy.
58
Id.
59
KENNEDY, supra note 56, at 20.
60
Id. at 21.
61
Id. at 19.
62
Id. at 22.
63
Id.
64
Id. at 23.
65
LÉVI-STRAUSS, supra note 18, at 16–36, 150.
66
Id. I previously illustrated some of this space between langue and parole in the context of international law. See generally Justin Desautels-Stein, The Judge and the Drone, 56 ARIZ. L. REV. 117
(2014).
57
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regulation, and (3) legal formalism. 67 Taken together, Kennedy described the
basic mode of reasoning in classical legal thought as “the will theory.” Kennedy explained that “the private law rules of the ‘advanced’ Western nation states
were well understood as a set of rational derivations from the notion that government should protect the rights of legal persons. . . .” 68 In this way, the classical mindset provides the jurist with a way of doing law; a way that instructs
the user to think of law as a system of objects, logically related and autonomous from a jurist’s moral preferences.
This particular idea gets at formalism that as Kennedy explains, is an aspect of the langue for classical legal thought. Formalism plays a deep, “prereflective” role in legal work, located in the Saussurean grammar (langue) that
makes the discourse (parole) possible. The more familiar interpretive practice
known as “textualism” is a cousin of formalism, though the two strategies deploy rather different techniques. 69
Kennedy’s second mode of legal consciousness is “social legal thought.” 70
Kennedy situates social legal thought as a language-system that appeared on the
scene towards the end of the nineteenth century, and that was spoken with decreasing frequency by the last third of the twentieth. 71 The langue of social legal
consciousness involved ideas about social interdependence, the application of
technical expertise to the resolution of social problems, a preference for public
administration over free competition, a wider appreciation of civil and political
rights, and judicial strategy of purposive interpretation that sought to generate
legal conclusions on the basis of perceived social needs. 72 Thus, where jurists
operating in the classical style sought the resolutions of legal disputes via direct
deductions from the natural truths of the private, pre-political sphere, jurists in
the social style would more generally look for answers by asking questions
about the social function of a given legal regime. 73 Once we knew what a law
was supposed to accomplish, and whether we wanted the relevant social goal
accomplished that way, only then could we go on to say whether a legal dispute
67F
68F
69F
70F
71F
72F
73F
67
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 25.
Id. at 26.
69
Formalism is a mode of legal reasoning whereby the jurist resolves a legal dispute on the basis
of deducing answers from relevant legal principles. Textualism, in contrast, involves the sense that a
legal dispute can be resolved on the basis of meanings immanent in some relevant text. Both formalist
and textualist strategies aspire to objectivity. On textualism, see generally William N. Eskridge, Jr.,
The New Textualism and Normative Canons, 113 COLUM. L. REV. 531 (2013) (reviewing ANTONIN
SCALIA & BRYAN A. GARNER, READING LAW: THE INTERPRETATION OF LEGAL TEXTS (2012)).
70
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 37.
71
Id. at 38.
72
Id.
73
Id.
68
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should be resolved in one direction or another. 74 That is, the grammar of social
legal thought instructed its user to couple functional jurisprudence to a set of
ideas, namely, interdependence, “social justice,” and a new breed of liberalism
that at once distanced itself from its classical ancestor on the one side and from
Marxism on the other. 75
Thus, in contrast with the formalism associated with classical legal
thought, we can associate “legal functionalism” with social legal thought. 76
For the functionalist, adjudication consists of adapting laws to evolving social
purposes and crafting legal decisions in the light of the social needs to which
law is its ardent servant. 77 Interestingly, functionalists believed that their
toolkit was just as “objective” as the formalists believed their approach to be. 78
The difference is in how the idea of objectivity is grounded. 79 Whereas formalists ground objectivity in the individual jurist’s capacity to reason his way towards a “correct” legal conclusion, functionalists ground objectivity in the jurist’s ability to gather the kind of empirical data that will compel a “correct”
legal decision. 80
In his descriptions of both classical legal thought and social legal thought,
Kennedy tries to show that these modes of legal consciousness have no “essence.” 81 What he means by this is that he denies the plausibility of a fundamental center around which the structures of legal thought might revolve. Legal consciousness is not left or right. “Classical legal thought was liberal in
either a conservative or a progressive way, according to how it balanced public
74F
75F
76F
77F
78F
79F
80F
81F
74
Id.
Id.
76
Gordon, Critical Legal Histories, supra note 13, at 58; Kennedy, Hermeneutic, supra note 21,
75
at 7.
77
See, e.g., Felix Cohen, Transcendental Nonsense and the Functionalist Approach, 35 COLUM.
L. REV. 809, 809 (1935).
78
Gary Peller, The Metaphysics of American Law, 73 CALIF. L. REV. 1151, 1154 (1985).
79
Id. at 1240.
80
See generally, e.g., Babcock v. Johnson, 191 N.E.2d 279 (N.Y. 1963) (turning to legal functionalism in a pivotal moment in the so-called “Conflicts Revolution”)
81
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 39. As Kennedy described his approach in
1997, he suggested that it could be understood as the “ bleeding together of surrealism with the structuralist critique of the scientism and humanism of both Liberalism and Marxism, under the sign of
Friedrich Nietzsche. . . . [A]s long as it’s convincing that there is something in [modernism/postmodernism] that can be talked about, it doesn’t seem important to get the genealogy just
right.” DUNCAN KENNEDY, A CRITIQUE OF ADJUDICATION 348 (1997) [hereinafter KENNEDY, CRITIQUE]. For one of Kennedy’s more explicit attempts to bring Foucault into his approach, see generally Duncan Kennedy, The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault!, 15 LEGAL STUD. F. 327 (1991). For
Chris Tomlins’s discussion regarding connections between Kennedy and Foucault, see Christopher
Tomlins, The Presence and Absence of Legal Mind: A Comment on Duncan Kennedy’s Three Globalizations, 78 LAW & CONTEMP. PROBS. (forthcoming 2014) [hereinafter Tomlins, Legal Mind].
2014]
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and private in market and household. The Social could be socialist or social
democratic or Catholic or Social Christian or fascist (but not communist or
classic liberal).” 82 Legal consciousness, Kennedy explains, is “the common
property” of the left and the right. 83
From this, we might gather that, despite having told us otherwise, Kennedy actually does think that these structures of legal thought have an essence—
an essence that might have something to do with “liberalism.” After all, it
would seem from these last lines that Kennedy believes that the projects of
classical legal thought, whether progressive or conservative, are always already liberal. 84 We might also gather that Kennedy doesn’t see liberalism as
ideological (though we know that he does), since classical legal thought (liberalism?) was deployed from both the left and the right. But later, he says that
“over the course of the twentieth century, the mainstream ideas of the first
globalization turned from a ‘consciousness,’ within which a multitude of political projects were at least possible, into an ‘ideology,’ classic liberalism and
then neoliberalism.” 85
As for social legal consciousness, Kennedy is similarly ambiguous about
the role of liberalism in the story. Kennedy suggests that social legal thought
could take a socialist form, which would clearly present a non-liberal strain of
the social and force the conclusion that social legal thought could not be “essentially” liberal. 86 But this doesn’t actually seem to be what Kennedy really
thinks about the social, for he states later that people working in the mode of
social legal thought “were anti-Marxist, just as much as they were anti-laissezfaire. The goal was to save liberalism from itself.” 87 And what, in terms of ideology, did the saving of liberalism entail? Well, very little, actually. As in the
case of classical legal thought, one could work in the social from all sorts of
angles, both left and right. Because of this agnosticism about a proper normative direction, Kennedy states that the social was a legal consciousness similar
to classical legal thought. And yet, Kennedy brings liberalism in again as
something appearing like more than just a political project, but as an essential
quality of legal consciousness itself. Discussing the place of Keynes in the social, Kennedy explains, “Keynes was perhaps its genius, even though the saveit-from-itself strategy should operate at the state and international levels, leav82F
83F
84F
85F
86F
87F
82
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 22.
Id.
84
Id.
85
Id. at 28.
86
Id. at 39.
87
Id. at 38.
83
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ing the Classical Legal Thought (“CLT”) structure of private property and free
contract intact.” 88
In discussing Kennedy’s structuralist approach to legal history, I have emphasized this issue of whether a mode of legal consciousness has an “essence”
due to concerns about “totalization,” “essentialism,” and the possibility of foundational structures anchoring the universals of human existence. 89 As Michel
Foucault explained, structuralism went wrong when its advocates worked towards a totalizing view of the object: “A total description draws all phenomena
around a single centre—a principle, a meaning, a spirit, a world-view, an overall
shape . . . .” 90 In some contexts, these concerns materialized in what became
known as the “post-structuralist” or “deconstructionist” critique of structuralism. 91 When Kennedy first developed the elements of legal structuralism, some
88F
89F
90F
91F
88
Id.
JOHN STURROCK, STRUCTURALISM 122 (2003). A common complaint was that structuralism
was oriented towards universals and empirical science. HERBERT L. DREYFUS & PAUL RABINOW,
MICHEL FOUCAULT: BEYOND STRUCTURALISM AND HERMENEUTICS, at xv (1982) (“The structuralist
approach attempts to dispense with both meaning and the subject by finding objective laws which
govern all human activity.”).
90
MICHEL FOUCAULT, THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE 10 (A.M. Sheridan Smith trans.,
1972). To see what Foucault means here in slightly more concrete terms, it is helpful to move towards
an example that will continue to work for us throughout the Article: “political economy” and the legal
relation between “market” and “state.” How might one begin to explore the meaning of a category like
political economy? See id. at 159. Where do you start? How do you start? It would be a mistake, Foucault argued, to assume at the outset that the category “political economy” was a unified structure
fundamentally centered by some secret set of rules—a langue. See id. at 11. To do so, poststructuralists would suggest, is to make the mistake of the totalizing structuralists who were apparently seeking an underlying grammar for all things falling in the category of political economy. For Foucault, in contrast, the actual “political economy” is far too messy for it to plausibly be characterized in
the terms of Saussure’s langue and parole. See id. It is too liquid—not here and neither now nor
then— constantly moving, shifting, dispersed. If there is “political economy,” it surely lacks an underlying syntax, and there can be no grammatical structure organizing its meaning. See id. If at the outset
you thought of political economy as a stable entity susceptible to a neutral study, whereby you might
examine and differentiate its various elements in order to get a glimpse of the deep, unconscious rules
governing those elements, Foucault assures you you’ve gone off the rails. Political economy has no
totalizing/stabilizing center—there is no historical continuity linking events together like links in a
chain. As soon as you get your hands on any one element—what Foucault called a statement—you’ll
find nothing there. See id. at 115. The text “is caught up in a system of references to other books, other
texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network.” Id. at 23.
91
See, e.g., EVE TAYLOR BANNET, STRUCTURALISM AND THE LOGIC OF DISSENT (1989); EMILE
BENEVISTE, PROBLEMS IN GENERAL LINGUISTICS (1971); MARK POSTER, CRITICAL THEORY AND
POSTSTRUCTURALISM (1989). It’s common to see Roland Barthes’s S/Z as a transition piece from structuralism to post-structuralism. See ROLAND BARTHES, S/Z: AN ESSAY 3–27 (Richard Miller trans.)
(1975); see also Bjornar Olsen, Roland Barthes: From Sign to Text, in READING MATERIAL CULTURE
165 (Christopher Tilley ed., 1990) (discussing Barthes’s shift from structuralism to post-structuralism).
89
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Pragmatic Liberalism
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critics worried that his work was veering precisely towards totalization. 92 To be
fair, it is easy enough to understand why post-structuralist legal scholars were as
anxious as they were about this. The problem now is that in his newer, postpoststructuralist works, Kennedy’s presentations of legal consciousness are
deeply ambivalent: these presentations are of what, exactly? Is it all of American
law, all of global law? Something less?
92F
II. PRECURSORS TO CONTEMPORARY LEGAL THOUGHT
This Part examines liberal legalism through the lens of legal structuralism, exploring the classic and modern structures of legal thought. In doing so, I
give special attention to the field of political economy. 93 I unpack political
economy in the liberal distinction between “market” and “state.”
My use of legal structuralism takes Kennedy’s understanding of classical
legal thought and social legal thought as its point of departure, but then reorients his conceptions in a very specific way. 94 The target of my structuralist
93F
94F
92
See, e.g., GARY MINDA, POSTMODERN LEGAL MOVEMENTS: LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE AT
CENTURY’S END 115 (1995).
93
See infra notes 156–204 and accompanying text. My analysis of liberal legalism and its relation
with contemporary legal thought is not dependent on the example of political economy. I believe that
the analysis extends across a number of legal domains, including race and gender. I do not believe that
the domain of political economy is somehow more important than gender and race—far from it. In
fact, my hope is that further research will ensue in these fields, either strengthening or complicating
the structuralist analysis I present here. I have produced the beginnings of a legal structuralist analysis
of race in Justin Desautels-Stein, Race as a Legal Concept, 2 COLUM. J. RACE & L. 1 (2012) [hereinafter Desautels-Stein, Race as a Legal Concept].
94
Much of my thinking about structuralism and liberal legalism has its roots in a few sentences
from Robert Gordon’s well-known essay, Critical Legal Histories:
What the parties are struggling over is the power to interpret and to have applied in
their favor the (contradictory) implications of a common set of premises. For example,
because most of the actual work of elaborating the basic terms of political discourse is
done by people at the top of the social pyramid, a historian would, to a limited extent,
be able to tell the story of the rise of a structure as an elite’s attempt to rationalize elite
privileges and the story of its fall as the collapse of the elite’s Empire of Reason under
siege from the enemies below . . . . One could concede this point to the structuralists
and still ask them to embed their story in a narrative context that would at least supply
subjects and occasions to the narrative to show that it is human beings with reasons and
motives, not disembodied Spirits, who drive the manufacture of legal concepts: Who
pushed which arguments on what occasions and why? What happened to set off the arguments? What happened to destabilize previously stable conventions? We ought to
have a rule of style: no sentence without a subject; no intellectual move without a reason—even if the particular subject and reason may sometimes be largely incidental to
the grander thematic history of legal consciousness.
Gordon, Critical Legal Histories, supra note 13, at 118–19.
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method is neither the totalization of “American law” nor “global law.” It is
rather the particular image of liberal legalism—nothing more, nothing less. In
making liberal legalism my target, I distinguish liberal styles and liberal concepts. 95 As for the styles of liberal legalism, I construct them out of an explicit
encounter between Kennedy’s two modes of legal consciousness and liberal
legalism. “Classical Legal Thought” becomes “classic liberalism” 96 and “Social Legal Thought” becomes “modern liberalism.” 97
With respect to legal concepts as they are structured in liberal legalism, I
employ two ideal types of rules: background and foreground. 98 Background
rules are constitutive of the legal concept, meaning, without those basic foundational rules, the concept would not exist. 99 Background rules might be situated all the way back in the unconscious langue, but they also may operate
closer up in the direction of parole. 100 Foreground rules may also be located in
the langue, but they perform quite differently. Foreground rules are those
meant to respond to the play of the background rules. 101 They are regulatory in
nature, and not constitutive of the concept. 102 Each liberal style has its own
particular orientation towards the relation between background and foreground
rules: an orientation that sits at the deeper levels of the style’s structure. 103
At least in my focus on the “market” as a legal concept, 104 the classic liberal style emphasizes background rules and finds few reasons for foreground
rules at all. 105 Modern liberalism has a strong emphasis on foreground rules,
but still retains a commitment to the idea of background rules. 106 What will
95F
96F
97F
98F
99F
100F
101F
102F
103F
104F
105F
106F
95
Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 395–98.
Id.
97
Id.
98
Id.
99
Id.
100
For discussion of these intermediary levels in the structure, see generally Desautels-Stein, The
Judge and the Drone, supra note 66; Duncan Kennedy, A Semiotics of Legal Argument, 42 SYRACUSE
L. REV. 75 (1991).
101
Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 395.
102
Id.
103
Id.
104
I should emphasize to the reader that, in the diachronic accounts that follow, my intention is
adamantly not to produce either a traditional work in the mode of a history of ideas, nor in the mode
of Cambridge School contextualism. Rather, my hope is to perform more in the mode of a less familiar conceptual or structuralist historiography. For an overview of the debates within intellectual history, see generally RETHINKING EUROPEAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY (Darrin M. McMahon & Samuel
Moyn, eds. 2014). On conceptual history, see generally KOSELLECK, supra note 1. On structuralist
history, see generally Justin Desautels-Stein, Back in Style, 25 L. & CRITIQUE 141 (2014).
105
Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 395.
106
See Desautels-Stein, Race as a Legal Concept, supra note 93, at 3–10.
96
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become apparent in the summary discussion that follows is that a belief in
background rules is a belief that inevitably conjures up the illusion of natural
necessity, whether it’s a natural market or a natural form of human identity,
like race. 107 The reason for this is that background rules are often characterized
as hardly rules at all, but instead as values that are both true and just as a matter of natural reason, convenience, evolution, or whatever. 108 Because foreground rules are by definition understood in relation to background rules, a
liberal style that emphasizes foreground rules inevitably conjures up the illusion of a heavily interventionist state. 109 The critique is precisely that these are
illusions: the choice between natural markers of market activity and human
identification and the interventionist state is a chimerical choice—the only actual choice is between different sets of rules—rules that are inevitably laden
with political meaning and distributive consequences. 110
As I discuss throughout, this Article associates legal formalism with the
classic liberal tendency to emphasize background rules over foreground rules,
and legal functionalism with the modern liberal tendency to emphasize foreground rules over background rules. The reason for this association is this: the
style of classic liberalism presents an image of market and state sharply divided by the line of natural reason. For the jurist operating in the classic style,
disputes over the proper amount of governmental intervention in the market
ought to be conclusively resolved through deduction from natural rules identified through the use of reason and collected in the slate of background rules.
This is legal formalism. For the jurist operating in the modern mode, in contrast, the appropriate limits of state regulation are defined much more in terms
of the purpose of the regulation in question and the nature of the social problem meant to be addressed. These regulations take the form of foreground
rules, and the mode of interpreting them is legal functionalism. We can present
these associations in the following picture, which are then discussed in detail
below.
107F
108F
109F
110 F
Classic Liberalism is to Legal Formalism and Strong Background Rules
as
Modern Liberalism is to Legal Functionalism and Strong Foreground Rules
107
Id.
Id.
109
Id.
110
For a recent illustration, see generally BERNARD E. HARCOURT, THE ILLUSION OF FREE MARKETS: PUNISHMENT AND THE MYTH OF NATURAL ORDER (2011).
108
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A. Classic Liberalism and the Market/State Distinction
As we will see, the classic liberal style places a tremendous amount of
weight on background legal rules, and pays very little, if any, attention to the
necessity of foreground rules. Here, I suggest John Locke’s Second Treatise
and the United States Supreme Court’s 1873 decision in The Civil Rights Cases as illustrative of the classic liberal style of constructing a market.
As a mercantilist writing before the advent of Quesnay and the Physiocrats almost a hundred years later, 111 Locke’s Second Treatise of 1689 112 was
hardly a herald for classical economics in any technical sense, and his ideas
about self-interest certainly had little to do either with the invisible hand or a
rational maximand. 113 Nevertheless, Locke’s analysis of the state of nature,
and the role of government in relation to the state of nature elaborated a style
that would serve not only the classical views of Smith, Ricardo, Bentham, and
Mill, but also the views of the marginalists like Marshall, Jevons, and later
thinkers ranging from Hayek to Coase to Posner. 114 Here’s how the very famous image was produced.
Locke began with the question of how, in some hypothetical state (or perhaps, the “barbarism” of “America”), the land which God had bestowed upon all
of mankind might be justifiably appropriated and transformed into personal
property. 115 In this pre-political “natural condition,” 116 Locke argued, human
beings have natural rights. 117 First among such rights is a right of selfpreservation which, for Locke, entailed a right of ownership over one’s body. 118
111F
112F
113F
114F
115F
116F
117F
118F
111
For discussion of the physiocrats, see STEVEN G. MEDEMA, THE HESITANT HAND: TAMING
SELF-INTEREST IN THE HISTORY OF ECONOMIC IDEAS 14–17 (2009). On mercantilism, see Lars G.
Magnusson, Mercantilism, in A COMPANION TO THE HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT 46–59 (Warren J. Samuels et al. eds., 2003).
112
JOHN LOCKE, THE SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT AND A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 12 (Paul Negri & Tom Crawford eds., Dover Publ’ns 2002) (1689). For discussion on Locke’s
work, see generally JOHN DUNN, THE POLITICAL THOUGHT OF JOHN LOCKE: AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE ARGUMENT OF THE TWO TREATIES OF GOVERNMENT (1969); E.J. Hobsbawm, The
Crisis of the Seventeenth Century, in CRISIS IN EUROPE: 1560–1660, at 5, 27 (Trevor Aston ed., 1965);
Peter Laslett, The English Revolution and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, 12 CAMBRIDGE
HIST. J. 40 (1956).
113
See C. B. MACPHERSON, THE POLITICAL THEORY OF POSSESSIVE INDIVIDUALISM: HOBBES
TO LOCKE 197–211 (1962).
114
See generally MEDEMA, supra note 111 (providing further discussion); W.W. ROSTOW, THEORISTS OF ECONOMIC GROWTH FROM DAVID HUME TO THE PRESENT: WITH A PERSPECTIVE ON THE
NEXT CENTURY (1990) (same).
115
LOCKE, supra note 112, at 12.
116
Id. at 2.
117
Id. at 3–4.
118
Id. at 12–13.
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Regardless of their status or identity, so went the implication, all people have a
right to their person.
This right over one’s body was the beginning of a chain of ideas that gets
Locke to a natural market system. 119 Because a person owns their body, Locke
suggests, they also own their labor, the physical demonstration of power performed by the body. 120 Now, say such a Lockean rights-bearing person walks
over to an unclaimed orchard, picks some apples, and takes them home. 121
This person now has a property right in the apples. Why? Certainly, the apples
weren’t his before he picked them, and all men could have laid a good claim
on them. But, says Locke, after our man here mixed his own labor with the
apple, the apple was his since no one else had a right of ownership over his
labor. 122 Thus, to the extent people labor over the common goods of the earth,
they may justifiably exclude others from particular goods to the extent they
have mixed their labor into those goods, creating natural rights of property. 123
The essence of this natural right of property is the justifiable deployment of
force in the exclusion of others from one’s “own” property. 124
So far so good, but keep in mind, we are still in the state of nature here,
and government has yet to enter this classic liberal image. Locke next explains
that there is a natural prohibition on the taking of too much of the earth’s
common bounty. 125 To take so many apples that the harvester might not be
able to eat them all, and so some would go to waste, Locke suggests, would be
to violate natural law. 126 But the answer lies not in providing a limit as to how
much the harvester might take from the orchard. In fact, it is virtuous for him
to take as many apples as he can, even all of them if it’s possible. 127 The rea119F
120F
121F
122F
123F
124 F
125 F
126F
127F
119
Id. at 22 (“And as different degrees of industry were apt to give men possessions in different
proportions, so this invention of money gave them the opportunity to continue and enlarge
them. . . .”); see also JOHN LOCKE, Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of
Interest, and Raising the Value of Money (1691), in 4 THE WORKS OF JOHN LOCKE 3, 7 (1824)
(“[F]or money being a universal commodity, and as necessary to trade as food is to life, every body
must have it, at what rate they can get it, and unavoidably pay dear, when it is scarce; and debts, no
less than trade, have made borrowing in fashion.”).
120
LOCKE, supra note 112, at 12–13.
121
Id.
122
Id.
123
Id.
124
Id. at 69.
125
Id. at 14.
126
Id. at 17.
127
See MACPHERSON, supra note 113, at 212 (“[T]he greater productivity of the appropriated
land more than makes up for the lack of land available for others. This assumes, of course, that the
increase in the whole product will be distributed to . . . those left without enough land. Locke makes
this assumption.”).
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son for Locke’s encouragement of accumulation, despite his own warnings
about waste, is that Locke believed that the invention of currency had solved
the problem. 128 With money in play, our harvester should gather up as much as
he can, and sell it for the highest value—a value that will be commensurate
with the amount of labor he has poured into the good. 129 In accumulating more
money in the form of gold and silver, Locke saw the growth of the national
economy and the consolidation of the nation-state. 130
Locke thus establishes rights of ownership and trade in a hypothetical
state of nature, but as is well-known, Locke’s intention was hardly to remain
hypothetical. Like Hobbes, Locke also saw the state of nature as fundamentally
flawed, and Locke believed the natural goodness of property rights to be in
jeopardy so long as they remained pre-political. 131 Thus, Locke exhorted our
harvester and his friends to leave the state of nature and enter into a social contract wherein they would consensually establish a constitutional government. 132 But why? Why were property rights jeopardized in the state of nature? Articulating what would later become known as the Rule of Law ideal, 133
Locke worried that in a pre-legal (and here we are to understand law as “positive law”) state of nature, contract and property rights might suffer underenforcement. 134 How might we be sure that promises will be upheld, property
respected, and crimes punished? Locke believed that in order for a market to
truly come into being and operational, it would need to leave the state of nature
and enter political society. 135 Only in the context of positively enforced rules
of property and contract might a market be effective, 136 and indeed, as Locke
explained, the “chief end . . . of the commonwealth was the protection of property.” 137
As a consequence, Locke arrived at the apparent validity of natural property rights—rights wherein individuals could justifiably appropriate land and
goods from the common heritage of mankind and exclude others from such
land and goods. Locke then derived from natural reason the applicability of
128F
129F
130F
131F
132F
133F
134F
135F
136F
137F
128
LOCKE, supra note 112, at 22.
PIERRE MANENT, AN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF LIBERALISM 43 (1995).
130
ROBERT L. HEILBRONER & WILLIAM MILBERG, THE MAKING OF ECONOMIC SOCIETY 47–48
(12th ed. 2008).
131
THOMAS HOBBES, LEVIATHAN 111–12 (Dutton 1965); Locke, supra note 112, at 57.
132
MACPHERSON, supra note 113, at 256–57.
133
See, e.g., A.V. DICEY, INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE LAW OF THE CONSTITUTION
107–22 (1885).
134
Locke, supra note 112, at 40.
135
Id. at 39.
136
Id.
137
Id. at 57.
129
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certain natural limits on how much we should accumulate, only to push for the
legalization of property and contract in the political realm, free of any natural
limits on how much one might take and exclude others from enjoying.
Ultimately, Locke presents us with an image of a market legally constructed out of the background rules of property and contract. Any conceivable
reason for the state to act in the service of regulating the market through foreground rules—here understood as countering the effects of the background
rules of property and contract—are left to the contingencies of natural reason.
To see how this concept of the market, with its commitment to strong
background rules, “materialized” a couple hundred years later, consider briefly
the United States Supreme Court’s 1883 decision in The Civil Rights Cases
holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. 138 Confronting
the Court in this case was a question about how to identify appropriate forms
of governmental interference in the natural workings of the market. The Act’s
purpose was to ensure to all U.S. citizens, regardless of race, “full and equal
enjoyment” of public places like hotels and theaters. 139 Writing for the majority, Justice Bradley explained that the Act’s authority was grounded in the newly-adopted Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and if the Act
could not be properly derived from the Amendment, it amounted to an unconstitutional piece of legislation. 140
Ably demonstrating Locke’s theory of the relation between market and
state, the Court ultimately struck down the Civil Rights Act as an instance of
unconstitutional interference in the proper workings of the private sphere of
the market. 141 Citing to the language of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibiting
the state from denying to any person equal protection of law, the Court emphasized that Congress had failed to understand that it was only “state action of a
particular character that was prohibited.” 142 The infringement of individual
rights, such as the barring of a person from a restaurant on account of their
race, could only come under the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment if the
infringement was required by some legislative act. 143 If a person decides not to
sell his apples to another, this sort of purely private action could not be undone
by Congressional action. The Fourteenth Amendment did not “authorize con138F
139F
140F
141F
142F
143F
138
109 U.S. 3, 25–26 (1883).
Id. at 4.
140
See id.
141
Id. at 25–26.
142
Id. at 11.
143
Id. at 11–12.
139
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gress to create a code of municipal law for the regulation of private rights.” 144
Instead, the Court reasoned, Congress could only correct pieces of state legislation that had impaired individual rights—it couldn’t adopt laws, like the Civil
Rights Act, which attempted to legislate for the market. 145 Thus, because the
plaintiffs were unable to point to state laws barring them from these establishments on the basis of their race, and since these instances of discrimination
were purely private, they had no cause of action. 146 The Fourteenth Amendment spoke to their claim, and since the Civil Rights Act failed to conform to
the Amendment’s state action requirement, the Court struck it down. 147
Confronting the Court in this case was a question about how to identify
appropriate forms of governmental interference in the natural workings of the
market. The fact that this is a market case is often obscured by its racial aspects, but what is the central dispute here but a claim about the alienation of
goods and services? 148 The question becomes, in Locke’s conceptual terms, a
question about the role of government in the management of the economy, and
for the Court, the answer is simple. Unless private rights are jeopardized by an
act of government itself, disputes about the allocation of resources must be left
to the private law of property and contract, and to the private-law enforcing
code of the criminal law. And what counts as state action? For the Court, once
again, it’s easy.
In the classic liberal style, the market’s background rules are not acts of
state, even though they may have a governmental imprimatur. The reason for
this way of cabining only certain kinds of state action as “state action” is that
the market’s background rules have been imported from the state of nature.
They are organic, real, true—precisely in a way that the Congressional attempt
to regulate the market through the Civil Rights Act was an artificial, false, and
arbitrary interference with the natural workings of the private sphere.
In sum, the classic liberal style is committed to an image of a strong market, only made possible in the shadow of the state and through the critical but
very narrow background rules of property and contract. As a set of economic
policies aimed at the strengthening of the relatively novel idea of the Westphalian state through growth in the manufacturing industry and the hoarding of
national currency reserves, mercantilism simply provided one window through
144F
145F
146F
147F
148F
144
Id. at 12.
See id. at 13.
146
Id. at 13–14.
147
See id. at 25–26.
148
For a broad treatment of the intersection of race and the market in this sense, see generally
Anthony Paul Farley, The Colorline as Capitalist Accumulation, 56 BUFF. L. REV. 953 (2008).
145
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which one might view Locke’s image of the relation between market and state.
Indeed, a hundred years later when Quesnay assaulted mercantilism with his
Tableau Economique, 149 and later still when Smith assaulted the physiocrats in
his Inquiry into the Nature of and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 150 it was
hardly the case that Locke’s classic liberal image was cast aside.
To the contrary, what is commonly called classical economics in the range
from Hume and Smith to Ricardo and Marx explicitly relied on precisely this
style of political economy—a style in which a market is constructed on the
basis of background legal rules. The market is then understood as an engine of
growth, and the state itself is left to do little more than supply the background
rules and tie itself to a constitutional abstention from meddling in the market in
any way not demanded by natural reason. 151 At the same time, it is also the
case that this was hardly a time without change: the mercantilist emphasis on
manufacturing was different from the physiocrats’ emphasis on agriculture, 152
and Smith’s argument for the harmony of individual self-interest and the national interests was different from both. 153 But what is common in this stretch
of economic thought is what has already been said: a sharp split between the
natural, moral, universal world of property, contract, and trade, and the political, arbitrary, and derivative world of the state. If we want to know how the
market ought to work, what the state ought to do in facilitating its operation
through free and full competition among rational market players, and how
government may assist in the market’s capacity to self-regulate, the answers
are available—inscribed in the heart of the man willing to reason his way
there. 154
As discussed below, the modern liberal approach to the market/state distinction is quite different. Whereas the classic liberal approach is associated
with strong background rules and formalistic modes of legal reasoning, the
modern liberal approach prefers foreground rules and trades in formalism for a
hefty dose of legal functionalism.
149 F
150F
151F
152F
153F
154F
149
See generally FRANCOIS QUESNAY, TABLEAU ECONOMIQUE (3rd ed.1971).
ADAM SMITH, AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS 29–
30 (Edwin Cannan ed., Arlington House 1966) (1776).
151
Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 398–423.
152
See LIONEL ROBBINS, A HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT: THE LSE LECTURES 95–103
(Steven G. Medema & Warren J. Samuels eds., 1998).
153
MEDEMA, supra note 111, at 20–23.
154
SMITH, supra note 150, at 29–30. For a standard Marxist critique, see GEORG LUKÁCS, HISTORY AND CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS: STUDIES IN MARXIST DIALECTICS 47 (Rodney Livingstone trans.,
MIT Press 1971) (1968). For a standard welfare critique, see JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, THE END OF
LAISSEZ-FAIRE 39–49 (1926). For a contemporary defense, see MILTON FRIEDMAN, CAPITALISM AND
FREEDOM 7–21 (1962).
150
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B. Modern Liberalism and the Market/State Distinction
What we have seen so far is a structure of legal thought with the following characteristics. In the context of political economy, the classic liberal style
begins with a deep commitment to background rules. These background rules
are considered natural and inviolable, and they serve as the langue for the system. The foundational grammar of these background rules does all the work
for the jurist, and, if we move more specifically into a semiotic posture, we
might say that the classic liberal understands the grammar to come ready-made
with everything the jurist needs in order to speak it. Thus, the classic liberal
jurist uses a distinctly formalistic mode of legal reasoning in the passage from
grammatical structure (strong background rules) to lexical use (resolutions of
discrete instances of legal conflict.)
In the modern liberal structure, the grammar shifts around. Unlike the
classic liberal and his obsession with natural boundaries between market and
state, the modern liberal is more relaxed about the idea that there is a natural
line somewhere. For the modern liberal, the grammar is oriented around the
acceptability of strong foreground rules, i.e., a court ought to allow the legislative branch a great deal of discretion in what it regards as necessary forms of
market regulation. The question of how much discretion is appropriate was not
defined in terms of formal boundaries, but rather in terms of the functions of
the law in question and the nature of the social problem that law was meant to
address. Modern liberalism’s focus on foreground rules should not, however,
be understood as merely the reverse of the classic liberal mode. The langue for
classic liberalism involves a heavy reliance on the formal availability of background rules, with almost no cognizance of a need for foreground rules at all.
The langue for modern liberalism, in contrast, involves a heavy reliance on the
functional availability of foreground rules, as well as a continued belief both in
the presence of background rules and their ultimate value. That is, the modern
liberal doesn’t reject the need for background rules or even think much about
tinkering with their context—it’s just that he’s not anxious about the natural
boundary between market and state. I illustrate the modern liberal style with
discussion of the economist Henry Carter Adams and the Supreme Court’s
well-known decision in Shelley v. Kraemer. 155
But first, we must return to our story. The political economy of classic
liberalism hit its stride over the course of the nineteenth century, coming into
its own as the dominant fighting faith of an imperial era. 156 As it was peaking,
155F
156F
155
156
See infra notes 166–204 and accompanying text.
See, e.g., E.J. HOBSBAWM, THE AGE OF EMPIRE, 1875–1914, at 9–10 (1987).
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however, a number of critical views were also coming into view. Indeed, as
early as 1844, Karl Marx was already busy demolishing the concept of the
rights-bearing individual sitting at the heart of the classic liberal structure. 157
Marx, however, signals the end of the classical economic thought, focused as
he was on the work of Ricardo and other classicists. 158 By the 1870’s and
‘80’s, the professional discipline of economics was entering an extremely turbulent period in which the neoclassicism of welfare economics and the more
left-leaning work of institutional economists emerged, 159 and one that would
eventually signal the beginnings of a new style of political economy, a style we
can call modern liberalism. 160
The welfare school of economics, gaining traction by the turn of the century and slipping out of the limelight by the Great Depression, accepted the
basic premises of classic liberalism, but sought to enrich and refine a scientific
understanding of market competition. 161 Relevant to the present discussion
was the idea promoted by neoclassicists like Marshall and Pigou that in certain
cases the involuntary transfer of wealth from some individuals to others could
be in the interest of social welfare. 162 Through new mathematical understandings of concepts like marginal utility, diminishing returns, and supply and demand, 163 welfare economists were highlighting a major element in modern
liberalism: an entrenched suspicion that markets were not self-regulating after
all, and that when “left alone,” markets fail. 164 For economists like Marshall,
however, a nuanced understanding of how markets can fail did not lead to the
conclusion that the state should intervene. 165
157F
158 F
159F
160F
161F
162F
163F
164F
165F
157
Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question (1843), reprinted in WRITINGS OF THE YOUNG MARX ON
PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIETY 216 (Loyd D. Easton & Kurt H. Guddat eds. & trans., 1967).
158
ROBERT L. HEILBRONER, THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS: THE LIVES, TIMES AND IDEAS OF
THE GREAT ECONOMIC THINKERS 56 (rev. ed. 1964).
159
See Herbert Hovenkamp, The First Great Law & Economics Movement, 42 STAN. L. REV.
993, 1025 (1990).
160
See Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 423–43.
161
DANIEL YERGIN & JOSEPH STANISLAW, THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS: THE BATTLE FOR THE
WORLD ECONOMY 13 (2008).
162
Cf. Peter Groenewegen, English Marginalism: Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou, in A COMPANION
TO THE HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT 252, 257 (1992).
163
See ROSTOW, supra note 114, at 153–60.
164
See generally KEYNES, supra note 154, at 39–49.
165
MEDEMA, supra note 111, at 54–76. Proposals for more muscular state action were pushed far
more aggressively, however, in the work of institutional economists like Thorstein Veblen, Richard
Ely, and John Commons. See Joseph Dorfman, The Background of Institutional Economics, in INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS: VEBLEN, COMMONS, AND MITCHELL RECONSIDERED 1, 30 (1963); Herbert
Hovenkamp, Coase, Institutionalism, and the Origins of Law and Economics, 86 IND. L.J. 499, 521–
29 (2011).
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Henry Carter Adams’s famous essay, The Relation of the State to Industrial Action, 166 nicely illustrates the seeds of what would become the dominant
ethos for modern liberals. 167 Adams began with some caveats. First, he wasn’t
interested in establishing a Marxist critique of the very foundations of economic liberalism. 168 Foundational concepts like “individual rights” and “free competition” were basically good concepts; the problem had been that in the hands
of classic liberals, policy-makers had lost sight of the proper way to go about
constructing the right kind of environment in which rights and a competitive
market might flourish. 169 For example, Adams argued that in the classic liberal
style, free competition was believed to be facilitated through the aggregated
effects of the individual pursuit of self-interest. 170 In fact, Adams pointed to
the contrary, markets could never be expected to function in this way. 171 In
might be the case that in certain industries, the well-being of the whole was
accelerated through a relentless focus on individualism. 172 But this certainly
wasn’t a law of nature, and in other industries sketched out in the essay, Adams
argued for a substantial disconnect between social welfare and individual
gain. 173 There was simply no reason to ever expect an invisible hand—whether
the hand was God’s or the sovereign’s—benevolently transforming the baker’s
selfishness into the brewer’s benefit. 174
Adams argued that in order to make good on the fundamentally sound
classic liberal insights into the benefits of a freely competitive market, much
more attention needed to be paid to the legal requirements necessary to actually fashion “free competition.” 175 In doing so, two points needed emphasis. One
was that the lens through which competition was to be analyzed should neither
be the individual nor the state. 176 The answer lay neither in a laissez-faire ap166F
167F
168F
169F
170F
171F
172F
173F
174F
175F
176F
166
Henry Carter Adams, Relation of the State to Industrial Action, 1 PUBLICATIONS AM. ECON.
ASS’N 7, 34 (1887).
167
For further discussion of Adams, see MORTON J. HORWITZ, THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN LAW, 1870–1960: THE CRISIS OF LEGAL ORTHODOXY 81–82 (1992); see generally A.W. Coats,
Henry Carter Adams: A Case Study in the Emergence of the Social Sciences in the United States,
1850-1900, 2 J. OF AM. STUDIES 177 (1968) (discussing the work of Henry Carter Adams). On the
rise of the social sciences, see generally DOROTHY ROSS, THE ORIGINS OF AMERICAN SOCIAL SCIENCE (1992).
168
Adams, supra note 166, at 12.
169
Id. at 35.
170
Id. at 17.
171
Id.
172
Id. at 20–21.
173
Id. at 18–19. These examples include the railroad industry, paper-mills, and workers’ unions.
174
Id.
175
Id. at 35.
176
Id. at 38.
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proach to individualism, nor in a socialist focus on government. 177 The truly
“American” approach, Adams suggested, was to view both the individual and
the state as servants of the social. 178
Society was the key concept, the concept around which the idea of free
competition could usefully be deployed. 179 And in espousing this new notion
of the social, Adams argued for a new orientation towards the state. 180 Unlike
classic liberals and their entrenched hostility towards state actors, Adams explained how the key elements in a properly competitive marketplace demanded
a great deal of state intervention, and in some cases, state ownership. 181 Market failures were real, pervasive, and intense. In order for society to be adequately protected from market failure, the state would be required to intervene,
and often. 182 This was the modern liberal emphasis on “social needs” over individual rights, and interdependence over autonomy. It was also the beginnings
of a shift away from worries about protecting the natural workings of the market, and towards worries about market failures. In short, these are the beginnings of the welfare state. 183
But where is law in this story? In much of the work that would become
associated with modern liberalism, there is little concern with tinkering with
the background rules of private law. 184 Was Adams worried about the “free
play” of the background rules, or property rights, freedom of contract, and the
tort and criminal law norms meant to regulate these rights? Absolutely. As Adams explained at length, a narrow focus on property and contract rights could
177F
178F
179F
180F
181F
182F
183 F
184 F
177
Id.
Id.
179
Id.
180
Id. at 65–66.
181
Id.
182
See, e.g., LOUIS D. BRANDEIS, THE CURSE OF BIGNESS: MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS OF LOUIS
D. BRANDEIS 104–08 (Osmond K. Frankel ed., 1935) (“Regulation is essential to the preservation and
development of competition, just as it is necessary to the preservation and best development of liberty. . . . For excesses of competition lead to monopoly, as excesses of liberty lead to absolutism.”).
183
See generally SIDNEY FINE, LAISSEZ-FAIRE AND THE GENERAL-WELFARE STATE: A STUDY
IN CONFLICT IN AMERICAN THOUGHT 1865–1901 (6th prtg. 1978); ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER,
JR., THE POLITICS OF UPHEAVAL (1960); ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER, JR., THE AGE OF ROOSEVELT:
THE COMING OF THE NEW DEAL (1958); ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER, JR., THE CRISIS OF THE OLD
ORDER 1919-1933 (1957).
184
A critical focus on the primary legal requisites of competitive society is one way of distinguishing the modern liberals from their rivals on the left. Adams was clear about this in a way that
many modern liberals were not, as when he identified the four “legal facts” upon which modern industrial society was built: “Private property in land, private property in labor, private property in capital,
and the right of contract for all alike.” Adams, supra note 166, at 35.
178
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not support the idea of free competition on their own. 185 Left to themselves,
background rules warped themselves into wildly disparate social configurations, loading tremendous amounts of wealth and resources into certain social
segments at the expense of others. To be sure, the modern liberal style is certainly worried about the unregulated effects of the background rules.
Nevertheless, while the modern liberal had these concerns, they translated
into efforts to restrain, manage, and channel the effects of background rules.
They did not translate into efforts to actually alter the basic premises on which
the background rules were based. 186 Consequently, we can say that whereas
the classic liberal style emphasizes a strict reliance on background rules as the
economic engine, the modern liberal style is much more interested in foreground rules. Foreground rules are the sorts of state acts Adams had in mind
when he called for a new effort to “socialize” the classic liberal notion of free
competition. This would require the state to intervene in any number of ways:
regulating, reacting, and responding to social forces believed to preexist the
foreground rules themselves. Thus, as background rules are imagined to be
constitutive of the market, foreground rules are imagined to be responsive to a
market that is already there, requiring the chastening hand of government. 187
The modern liberal style also had its own jurisprudential approach to the
interpretation of the new regime of regulations pumping out of the growing
administrative state. Unlike the “formalistic” approach associated with classic
liberalism, modern liberals are fascinated by an instrumental, purposive, or
“functionalist” jurisprudence. In keeping with Adams’ focus on society, functionalism taught judges to interpret rules in light of ever-changing social needs
and purposes. 188
In 1948, in Shelley v. Kraemer, the United States Supreme Court held that
judicial enforcement of a racially restrictive housing covenant violated the
Equal Protection Clause. 189 A well-known instance of the modern liberal style,
this state action case involved a dispute between African-American petitioners
seeking to purchase a home from white homeowners willing to sell, and white
residents of neighboring properties who were party to a restrictive covenant
that prohibited purchases of the property by anyone not belonging to the “Cau185F
186F
187 F
188F
189 F
185
Id. at 35–40.
For a discussion of this general tendency, see UNGER, LEGAL ANALYSIS, supra note 42, at 29
(The modern style seeks to keep “present institutional arrangements while controlling their consequences: by counteracting, characteristically, through tax-and-transfer or through preferment for disadvantaged groups, their distributive consequences.”).
187
See Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 396.
188
Kennedy, Hermeneutic, supra note 21, at 8.
189
334 U.S. 1, 4, 6, 20 (1948).
186
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casian race.” 190 The residents seeking to enforce the restrictive covenant
claimed that the dispute was a matter to be resolved solely by private law, and
that in contrast to the views of the petitioners, the equal protection clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment was irrelevant. 191 No one disputed that had the
covenants been the result of a governmental act, they would have violated the
Equal Protection Clause. 192 Thus, the dispositive issue was whether there was
any state action in the case—if there was none, then this was a matter to be
resolved by Missouri courts and through the law of property. 193 The Supreme
Court of Missouri was persuaded by this view, finding in favor of enforcing
the restrictive covenants. 194
What should be apparent here is that if a court were to decide the dispute
in the classic liberal style, the African-American petitioners would have no
recourse to constitutional provisions. The case would present a clear instance
of commercial transaction, properly constituted through the rules of property
and contract—the market’s background rules. Shelley, however, does not present us with a classic liberal analysis of the market. The Court began by admitting that this was a dispute between private actors, buyers and sellers, and free
of legislative enactment. 195 Nevertheless, the Court argued that there was still
state action here—judicial action by Missouri courts in the enforcement of the
contracts. 196
Another way to make the point: the Shelley Court had no intention of
making sacred the market’s background rules—background rules were arbitrary acts of state in precisely the same way as foregrounded acts of legislation.
One may wonder why, however, the Court was able to break with such a clear
tradition of state action, harking back to The Civil Rights Cases. There are any
number of conceivable answers here, but among the most relevant with respect
to our aim in establishing a modern liberal style is the reference to a functionalist or instrumental interpretive approach hinted at towards the end of the decision. 197 After rejecting a sharp public-private distinction and recognizing the
viability of a theory of judicial state action, the Court sought to highlight the
purpose of the Fourteenth amendment. 198 The critical question for the court
190F
191F
192F
193 F
194F
195F
196F
197F
198F
190
Id. at 5–6.
See id. at 7–9.
192
Id. at 11.
193
See id. at 13–14.
194
Id. at 6.
195
See id. at 13–14.
196
Id.
197
Id. at 22–23.
198
See id.
191
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was not about a formal theory of state action; it was a question of whether the
ultimate purpose of the amendment was served by a judicial enforcement of
restrictive covenants. 199 The Court’s conclusion was that it was not:
199F
[I]t is clear that the matter of primary concern was the establishment
of equality in the enjoyment of basic civil and political rights and the
preservation of those rights from discriminatory action on the part of
the States based on considerations of race or color. Seventy-five years
ago this Court announced that the provisions of the Amendment are to
be construed with this fundamental purpose in mind. 200
200F
To recap, my renderings of the classic liberal and modern liberal styles
are at once deeper and narrower than Kennedy’s presentations of classical legal
thought and social legal thought. They are deeper in that they push Kennedy’s
descriptions of langue into a master-langue, that of liberal legalism. With this
depth, I believe, comes the sort of “edifying” power that the early structuralists
found and that was later renounced in the encounter with post-structuralism. 201
At the same time, the classic liberal and modern liberal styles are also narrower, or less ambitious, than the presentations of classical legal thought and social
legal thought. At times, Kennedy’s description of a mode of legal thought flirts
201F
199
See id.at 23.
See id.
201
DUNCAN KENNEDY, LEGAL REASONING: COLLECTED ESSAYS 97 (2008) (“The power of
structuralist methodology is that it shows that what at first appears to be an infinitely various, essentially contextual mass of utterances (parole) is in fact less internally various and less contextual than
that appearance. It does this by ‘reducing’ many of the particular elements of the discourse to the
status of operational devices of other elements.”). Some of Roland Barthes’ work, particularly S/Z, is
commonly seen as a transition between structuralism to poststructuralism. See, e.g., Olsen, supra note
91, at 165 (“What is considered as his shift from structuralism to poststructuralism denotes the third
phase [in Barthes’ work], of which SZ is diagnostic. This shift was clearly influenced by Tel Quel
textualism and the writings of Derrida and Kristeva.”). But I believe both Foucault and Barthes are
better understood as refining structuralism, and not going post structuralism. For Foucault, the analysis of an object assumed at the start that the object might really exist in space and time. FOUCAULT,
supra note 90, at 26. But in going on to describe it, he would take nothing for granted. None of the
historical landmarks, none of the divisions, none of the heroes were available:
200
I shall accept the groupings that history suggests only to subject them at once to interrogation; to break them up and to see whether they can be legitimately reformed; or
whether other groupings should be made; to replace them in a more general space
which, while dissipating their apparent familiarity, makes it possible to construct a theory of them.
Id. Like Barthes, Foucault wanted to “demolish” the object in order to erect a composition of it. Id. at
29. For my discussion of Barthes, see Desautels-Stein, supra note 104, at 151–58.
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with the sense that it is about all law, everywhere. 202 The style of legal structuralism that I have been practicing in this Part eliminates this ambivalence. 203
In the context of political economy, the structuralist approach constructed
simulacra in which particular liberal styles of arguing about legal concepts
emerged. In the classic liberal style, markets appeared in the light of a strong
public/private distinction, and were legalized through a powerful reliance on
the background rules of private law—rules achieving moral supremacy
through their association with the natural world. In the modern liberal style,
markets continued to be generated out of the master-langue of the public/private distinction, but the distinction was articulated differently. Here, legal concepts are constructed with more of a tilt towards the foreground rules
associated with the political world and the need to assist those groups disadvantaged by the natural background rules. The background/foreground divide
isn’t abolished in modern liberalism—it is chastened.
The discussion of classic liberalism and modern liberalism now brings us
to the third structure in our story: “contemporary legal thought.” Like Duncan
Kennedy, I believe that an appreciation of the contemporary aspect of legal
consciousness requires a familiarity with its intellectual priors—in this case,
the left-over fragments of the classic and modern styles. 204 Contemporary legal thought is not, however, merely the cobbling together of broken pieces.
Rather, as I argue below, the “contemporary” may be constructed as something
more: pragmatic liberalism. Rather than seeing contemporary legal thought as
an unsynthesized amalgam, pragmatic liberalism suggests the presence of an
integrating grammar and a general field of legal production.
202 F
203F
204 F
III. WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY LEGAL THOUGHT?
In this Part, Section A.1 continues the discussion of classic and modern
liberalism from above, and moves forward to the apparently bifurcated condition of contemporary legal thought. 205 It is bifurcated in the sense that it is
constituted by the twin pillars of neo-formalism and neo-functionalism. This
discussion of neo-formalism and neo-functionalism tracks, respectively, the
205F
202
See, e.g., Duncan Kennedy, The Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries, 28 BUFF. L. REV.
205, 213 (1979).
203
See supra notes 49–199 and accompanying text. Kennedy approaches a similar position in his
discussion of the transgressive artifact: “A basic [modernist/postmodernist] goal is to create a style at
the same time that you destroy a style. Once the style is there in the artifacts or performances, other
people can adopt or adapt it to their purposes.” KENNEDY, CRITIQUE, supra note 81, at 343.
204
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 20–22.
205
See infra notes 217–238 and accompanying text.
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presence in the legal materials of classic liberalism and modern liberalism. 206
To be sure, it is a mistake to think that formalism is essentially classical, or that
functionalism is essentially modern. 207 But as we have already seen in the context of the market, the category of classical liberalism is associated both with
strong background rules and a formalistic strategy of making those rules appear natural and necessary. 208 As for modern liberalism, the market is constructed in a way that favors strong foreground rules, and which largely depends on functionalist arguments for securing their legitimacy. 209 In the structure of contemporary legal thought, the langue is defined by an oscillation between formalistic and functionalist modes of legal reasoning—a constantly
recurring waltz between the classics and the moderns.
After briefly placing these pillars (neo-formalism and neo-functionalism)
in some historical context, Section A.2 illustrates their pragmatic relation by
looking to a handful of cases once again dealing with the Market/State distinction. 210 Here, however, rather than look to more state action cases, I give attention to the question from a different jurisprudential angle. In these cases, the
issue before the Court is framed as a question of just how much market activity
the state should be allowed to regulate, as opposed to whether the market
should be regulated. These cases are particularly helpful insofar as they are not
limited to any specialized field of law, but rather deal with constitutional law,
antitrust law, securities law, and discrimination law. In case after case, the Supreme Court oscillates between the neo-formal and neo-functional, switching
tactics as easily as outfits. The Court’s oscillation may seem a jumble of contradictory modes of legal reasoning. I argue to the contrary, and suggest that
our contemporary experience of these conflicting modes is rather one of stabilization. 211
This suggestion of stability rests on the theory of “legal pragmatism,” discussed in Section B. 212 I use legal pragmatism in two different senses, each of
which refers to langue and parole, respectively. At the level of langue or gram206F
207F
208F
209 F
210F
211F
212F
206
See infra notes 231–238 and accompanying text.
It is a mistake for the reason that it is entirely possible to present the market as a legal concept
in the modern style using formalistic modes of legal reasoning, just as it is possible to construct the
classic style in functionalist terms. This may be, on the whole, somewhat unusual, but it is logically
coherent. What’s more, this switching may have been far more typical than the histories normally
suggest. See generally, HORWITZ, supra note 167 (describing the market in conjunction with the rise
of legal formalism).
208
See supra notes 112–154 and accompanying text.
209
See supra notes 156–216 and accompanying text.
210
See infra notes 241–303 and accompanying text.
211
See infra notes 328–331 and accompanying text.
212
See infra notes 304–331 and accompanying text.
207
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mar, I describe a pragmatist sensibility operating at a systemic or structural level
of control. In this deep sense, it is neither necessary nor expected that a jurist
would self-consciously adopt a pragmatist approach to the legal material. At this
level, I refer to pragmatic liberalism as the grammar which makes sense of the
easy oscillation between discredited modes of legal argument—the discredited
modes of formalism and functionalism we associate with classic liberalism and
modern liberalism. At the level of parole or lexical usage, legal pragmatism is
much more of a self-conscious posture. It is this discussion that most commentators on legal pragmatism will find most familiar, as I refer to popular pragmatists
such as Richard Posner and William Simon. 213 Thus, I situate legal pragmatism
both as: (i) a deep grammar accounting for and stabilizing our contemporary
forms of legal argument; and (ii) a particularly contemporary and self-conscious
mode of deploying legal arguments. 214
213F
214F
A. The Contemporary Alliance Between Neo-Formalism
and Neo-Functionalism
Section A.1 begins by recounting the “neoliberal” backlash against the
modern liberals. 215 Unlike in prior moments of legal history, however, neoliberalism failed to dominate legal thought in the manner achieved by either classic or modern liberalism. Instead, and by the last years of the twentieth century,
it had become apparent among political elites that a neoliberal return to formalism and strong background rules would not solve problems of political
economy. At the same time, there was little interest in a full-on return to the
modern liberal focus on strong foreground rules and functionalism, either. The
result was a twenty-first century hodge-podge of remnants left over from these
prior periods: an eclectic assortment of “neo-formalist” and “neo-functionalist”
modes of reasoning, awkwardly operating in tandem. This strange eclecticism
is explored through a survey of Supreme Court decisions in Section A.2. 216
The purpose of this survey is to set up my discussion of legal pragmatism to
follow.
215F
216F
1. The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberals
As I have suggested, the pragmatic structure of contemporary legal
thought becomes visible once we are accustomed with the prior structures of
213
See infra notes 310–365 and accompanying text.
See infra notes 308–331 and accompanying text.
215
See infra notes 217–238 and accompanying text.
216
See infra notes 239–302 and accompanying text.
214
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classic and modern liberalism. In the story so far, classic liberal ideas about the
appropriate sphere of market performance were assaulted in the early decades
of the twentieth century. 217 Similarly, a couple generations later, modern liberalism fell out of favor as well, losing its spot as the dominant grammar of legal
discourse. 218 Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979 as Prime Minister is indicative of the “neoliberal” shift. 219 For Thatcher and company, the “social” focus
of modern liberalism had been illusory—there was “no such thing as society,
only individual men and women.” 220 In that same year, Paul Volcker, chairman
of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, reversed the modern commitment to full
employment in favor of a full-frontal attack on inflation, launching what later
came to be known as the “Volcker Shock.” 221 In 1980, Ronald Reagan was
elected president, deploying a set of policies aimed at the systemic deregulation of industry, tax and budget cuts, and the downsizing of organized labor. 222
In 1982, the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) purged itself of its Keynesian influences and leveraged the beginnings of its well-known structural adjustment programs against the developing world in return for debt rescheduling. 223 As David Harvey has described it, this exploding new style of political
economy proposed that:
217F
218F
219F
220 F
221 F
222F
223F
[H]uman well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual
entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets,
and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices . . . . Furthermore,
if markets do not exist . . . then they must be created, by state action
if necessary . . . . State interventions in markets (once created) must
217
See supra notes 155–203 and accompanying text.
See Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 444 (discussing the beginning of neoliberalism).
219
DAVID HARVEY, A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEOLIBERALISM 22–23 (2005)
220
Id. (“[C]onfronting trade union power, attacking all forms of social solidarity that hindered
competitive flexibility . . . dismantling or rolling back the commitments of the welfare state, the privatization of public enterprises (including social housing), reducing taxes, encouraging entrepreneurial
initiative, and creating a favourable business climate to induce a strong inflow of foreign investment
. . . .”).
221
Id.
222
YERGIN & STANISLAW, supra note 161, at 169.
223
See JAMES M. CYPHER & JAMES L. DIETZ, THE PROCESS OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, at
xviii (3d ed. 2009) (“Briefly put, [the ‟Washington Consensus”] was the encapsulation of mainstream
development thinking in the early 1990s. What poor nations needed, it was argued, was . . . better
organization. Better organization was something of a code word that meant, primarily, shifting resources away from the state sector into areas assumed to be of much higher value in the private sector.”).
218
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be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the
state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess
market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit.” 224
224F
For some, this shift away from modern liberalism was christened “neoliberalism.” 225 For these commentators, the new “Washington Consensus” represented a return to classic liberal ideas about the autonomy of the market, making out a “new” classic liberalism. 226 In the typology of this Article, “neoliberalism” is a little awkward. 227 It doesn’t make much sense to call the emergence
of another kind of liberal style a new liberalism, since the mode of reasoning
that replaced modern liberalism was merely another variety of liberalism itself.
That said, what became obvious in the last decades of the twentieth century
was that the manner of thinking about the relation between the state and the
market had changed, and changed towards something more like laissez-faire
than the welfare state. 228 In all instances of the new style, courts were increasingly inclined to privilege the background rules of the market over the foreground rules associated with the state. 229 This often came into view accompanied by well-worn arguments for “rights” and more formal modes of legal reasoning. 230
If neoliberalism was in the groove by 1980, it would be a mistake to think
that its argumentative structure was dominating American legal thought in a
way similar to how modern liberalism and classic liberalism were dominant in
their respective times. 231 Alongside the re-surfacing of neoliberal legal formalism was an approach to problem-solving much more centered in ad hoc, all225 F
226F
227F
228F
229 F
230 F
231 F
224
Harvey, supra note 219, at 2.
See generally ANDREW LANG, WORLD TRADE AFTER NEOLIBERALISM: RE-IMAGINING THE
GLOBAL ECONOMIC ORDER 52–57 (2011) (characterizing the trend as “neo-liberalism”).
226
See, e.g., DEEPLAK LAL, REVIVING THE INVISIBLE HAND: THE CASE FOR CLASSICAL LIBERALISM IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 62–90 (2006).
227
In other works, I have brought focus to the neoliberal style. See Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 444; Desautels-Stein, State Action, supra note 8, at 297. In those works, however, my
intention was not to elaborate “pragmatic liberalism,” but more specifically the relation between the
classic, modern, and neoliberal modes of legal argument. As I argue in this Article, I believe that neoliberalism is helpfully understood as a component of pragmatic legal consciousness, rather than as a
mode independent of it.
228
See, e.g., RICHARD A. EPSTEIN, SKEPTICISM AND FREEDOM: A MODERN CASE FOR CLASSICAL LIBERALISM 1–12 (2003).
229
See Desautels-Stein, State Action, supra note 8, at 297.
230
Kennedy, Hermeneutic, supra note 21, at 48.
231
Id.; see also Tomlins, Legal Mind, supra note 81, at 18.
225
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things-considered “policy analysis.” 232 In this mode, the judge eschewed principled rights-based analysis and reliance on categorical defaults and favored
the idea that a judge’s role—in the absence of clear statutory or constitutional
guidance—was to weigh competing considerations in an effort to find the most
reasonable resolution. 233 This sort of ad hoc balancing was not, however,
merely a continuation of modern functionalism. For the modern liberal, functionalism counseled the judge in the direction of a right answer informed by
social study and serious empirical investigation. 234 For the functionalist, adjudication could still be “objective” to the extent that social problems were resolvable by indisputably better policy decisions. 235 The balancing tests of the
late twentieth century and still on the books today, for better or worse left behind these aspirations for objectivity. 236 The most that could be said of this
mode of reasoning was that we might hope to find consensus about what might
count as reasonable in any given situation. 237
Though contemporary legal thought is not merely the confluence of these
two ideas, the combination of neo-formalism and neo-functionalism forms its
basic architecture. 238 At first sight, this is pretty strange. After all, the formalist
approach to legal reasoning was a thesis challenged and overcome by the functionalist antithesis of modern liberalism. Debunked in their own times, formalism and functionalism have seemingly come back from the dead, only now to sit
obliviously in the strange milieu of contemporary legal thought. What might be
termed the “neo-functionalist” side of contemporary legal thought reminds us of
classic liberalism’s collapse, while the neo-formalist side reminds us of our disenchantment with modern liberalism. As a consequence, contemporary legal
thought emerges as an interminable oscillation between outlooks of the dead.
232F
233F
234F
235F
236F
237F
238 F
232
See, e.g., ANDREAS F. LOWENFELD, INTERNATIONAL LITIGATION AND THE QUEST FOR REASONABLENESS 29–32 (1996) (describing the development of an effects test to extraterritorial jurisdiction).
233
This is also consistent with Pierre Schlag’s portrayal of legal aesthetics. See Schlag, supra
note 41, at 1075.
234
Karl E. Klare, Judicial Deradicalization of the Wagner Act and the Origins of Modern Legal
Consciousness, 1937–1941, 62 MINN. L. REV. 265, 270 (1978) (“[T]he Court, including its most liberal members, set in motion a distinctive style of legal analysis characteristic of modern American
legal consciousness . . . .”).
235
See, e.g., Peller, supra note 78, at 1155.
236
Kennedy, Hermeneutic, supra note 21, at 20.
237
Id.
238
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 22.
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2. Interpreting the Market/State Distinction in Contemporary Legal Thought
In order to illustrate the oscillating dynamic between “neo-formalist” and
“neo-functionalist” modes of legal reasoning in contemporary legal thought, I
come back to the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence dealing with the Market/State
distinction. However, unlike the state action cases discussed above, the cases
discussed in this Section approach the Market/State distinction from another
angle: the question here is whether the Court should allow the application of
foreground rules to market activity when that activity has an “extraterritorial”
component. 239 As I have said, these cases are especially useful in drawing out
the pragmatic basis of contemporary legal thought due to their lack of focus on
any one legal domain. They cover the gamut, ranging from business law to
human rights and everything in between. In each instance, the cases keep alive
the contradictory legacies of the classic and modern liberal modes of constructing a market.
Nevertheless, before moving into the discussion, it is worth making an
important clarifying point. The discussion of the cases that follow and the argumentative strategies therein is intended to illustrate the deeper structure of
contemporary legal thought—the langue. That is, my point is not that any given Supreme Court justice shifts between the strategies, interchanging their
preferences at will. That is not the argument at all, particularly since it is rather
apparent that some justices are committed to a single set of interpretive techniques. Rather, the purpose of this discussion is to show how the broader field
of legal argument is structured in such a way that the members of the Court
may consistently deploy contradictory modes of interpretation without disrupting or destabilizing the surface experience of legal thought. 240 Or to put this
another way, while there may very well be a crisis of legal identity operating at
the deep structure of contemporary legal thought, pragmatism serves to mask
the effects of that contradiction and produce a sensation that, at the structural
level, everything seems to be working just fine.
That said, let us now turn to the cases. In the early decades of the twentieth century, courts adhered to a formal presumption against the “extension” of
U.S. law outside of U.S. territory. The underlying rationale behind this presumption, most prominently displayed in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s majority opinion in the 1909 United States Supreme Court Case of American Banana
Co. v. United Fruit Co., appears to be that sovereigns enjoy rights of independ239F
240F
239
See Developments in the Law: Extraterritoriality, 124 HARV. L. REV. 1226, 1228–31 (2011)
(providing a recent general treatment).
240
See infra notes 241–303 and accompanying text.
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ence and autonomy that were unavoidably undermined by the fact of extraterritorial applications of U.S. law. 241 Coupled with this respect for sovereign
rights is a preference for less rather than more “government intervention.” 242
By putting in place a strong presumption that congressional statues (foreground rules) only apply to restricted spaces of market activity, courts shrink
rather than expand the scope of regulatory power. As I’ve argued above, this is
a classic liberal tendency for prioritizing background rules over foreground
rules. 243
In contrast is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s 1945 decision, United States v. Aluminum Co. of America (Alcoa), which held that an
aluminum company had monopolized the interstate and foreign “virgin” aluminum ingot market in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. 244 Judge
Learned Hand’s decision in Alcoa shifted away from a formal default for sovereign rights and towards a more purposive analysis of social interests. 245 This
was the beginning of the “effects test” that would take root in U.S. antitrust
and securities law. 246 It is also indicative of a counter-preference to give government more leeway in its efforts to regulate the market: rather than formally
limit the scope of federal power, the “effects test” gave courts room to apply
congressional directives to a broader sphere of activity. This is a common feature of the modern style, in which foreground rules are given deference.
By the end of the twentieth century, these vying approaches merged into a
contradictory framework in which neo-formalistic constraints on federal power
rode shotgun with neo-functionalist balancing tests. A slate of recent decisions
is illustrative of this bifurcated aspect of contemporary legal thought.
As discussed above, the 1970s serve as a rough marker for the beginnings
of the contemporary style. It was during this time that the modern appreciation
of governmental discretion really declined, and in its place emerged a throwback view about the self-regulating market. 247 The less federal intervention, so
the new thinking went, the better. In 1991, in EEOC v. Arabian American Oil
Company (Aramco), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil
241F
242F
243F
244F
245F
246 F
247F
241
See 213 U.S. 347, 347–48 (1909).
Id. at 356.
243
See supra notes 229–230 and accompanying text.
244
See 148 F.2d 416, 420–23, 447 (2d Cir. 1945).
245
Id. at 443–44. For a well-known extension of this approach, see Timberlane Lumber Co. v.
Bank of America, 549 F.2d 597, 608–15 (9th Cir. 1977).
246
For an extension of this approach in securities law, see Schoenbaum v. Firstbrook, 405 F.2d
200, 206 (2d Cir. 1968); Leasco Data Processing Equipment Corp. v. Maxwell, 468 F.2d 1326, 1341
(2d Cir. 1972).
247
See infra notes 217–238 and accompanying text.
242
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Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to employment actions against American citizens employed in foreign countries by U.S. businesses. 248 Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s well-known opinion in that case is representative of the “neoliberal” mode. 249 The dispute was between a U.S. citizen-plaintiff and two
U.S. corporations, and it concerned a question of whether an American employee could exercise rights under Title VII against an American employer
when the discrimination took place outside of U.S. territory. 250 Consistent with
pretty much every decision in this area, Rehnquist began by conceding that
Congress had the power to regulate employment discrimination in a situation
like this—the question was whether Congress had intended to intervene in the
employer-employee relationship when it was centered overseas. 251
The EEOC argued that Congress had clearly intended to regulate just
these forms of market transactions, and that this intent was apparent in the language of Title VII. 252 Although Rehnquist admitted that there was language in
the statute that could plausibly support the idea that Congressional power
ought to be extended in such a way, the language just wasn’t clear enough. 253
The Court concluded that in the face of a presumption against extending the
scope of federal regulation over U.S. citizens, the EEOC “failed to present sufficient affirmative evidence that Congress intended Title VII to apply” to
American employers and employees when the conduct in question had a foreign element. 254
In 1993, just two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Hartford
Fire Insurance Co. v. California. 255 Like in Aramco, the question was whether
a piece of federal legislation ought to regulate market activity when it takes
place beyond U.S. borders. 256 What was different was that here the legislation
at issue was the Sherman Act rather than the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in
addition to American defendants, a British reinsurance company was being
sued as well. 257 Of interest is the fact that Justice David Souter’s majority
248F
249F
250F
251F
252 F
253F
254F
255F
256F
257F
248
499 U.S. 244, 244, 259 (1991).
See id.
250
Id. at 247.
251
See id. at 248.
252
See id. at 248–49.
253
See id. at 250–51.
254
Id. at 259.
255
509 U.S. 764, 769–70 (1993).
256
Compare Hartford Fire, 509 U.S. at 769–70 (considering whether the Sherman Antitrust Act
ought to apply to American citizens in foreign markets), with Amarco, 499 U.S. at 246 (determining
whether Title VII applies to employment actions against American citizens employed by U.S. businesses abroad).
257
Hartford Fire, 509 U.S. at 798.
249
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opinion provides an alternative view of formalistic legal reasoning—one that
has much in common with Rehnquist’s opinion in Aramco. For Souter, the presumption that carried so much force in Aramco is nowhere to be seen. He
seemed to share very little of the deep anxiety the Aramco Court exhibited
about extending the scope of federal regulation to American employees doing
business elsewhere. In this case, in contrast, the idea that Congress ought to be
able to regulate market conduct abroad—and even the conduct of foreign nationals—is accepted easily. 258 Because the decisions of British reinsurers had a
substantial effect on U.S. commerce, the Court bypassed Aramco’s constricted
view of federal power and acquiesced in the propriety of Congress regulating
anti-competitive behavior. 259 Although one may have wished that the Court
had followed the Ninth Circuit’s extension of the Alcoa approach or the balancing tests of the Third Restatement on Foreign Relations, it wasn’t to be. 260
The question for the Court was not whether, all things considered, the application of the Sherman Act was the most functional or reasonable choice. This
was a question couched in the language of legal formalism: it was simply the
right choice. 261
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court held in Morrison v. National
Australia Bank Ltd. that the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 did not reach
transactions made purely on foreign exchanges. 262 Morrison represents a more
recent example of an opinion leveraging the language of legal formalism. 263
The case involved a claim by Australian plaintiffs against an Australian Bank
in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for violations of
the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and its related administrative addenda. 264 The claim concerned fraudulent over-valuations of the Bank’s common
stock—valuations that included the assets of a U.S. based mortgage-servicing
258F
259F
260F
261F
262F
263 F
264 F
258
See id. at 798–99.
See id.
260
See Timberlane Lumber Co., 549 F.2d at 608–15 (extending the Alcoa approach); LOWENFELD, supra note 232, at 228–32.
261
Hartford Fire, 509 U.S. at 799 (“No conflict exists . . . ‘where a person subject to regulation
by two states can comply with the laws of both.’ Since the London reinsurers do not argue that British
law requires them to act in some fashion prohibited by the law of the United States, or claim that their
compliance with the laws of both countries is otherwise impossible, we see no conflict with British
law.”) (citations omitted). The Court further noted: “We have no need . . . to address other considerations that might inform a decision to refrain from the exercise of jurisdiction on grounds of international comity.”). Id.
262
See 561 U.S. 247, 273 (2010).
263
See id.
264
See id. at 251–52.
259
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company. 265 The district court dismissed the Australian plaintiff’s class action
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on the theory that their claim was largely
unrelated to U.S. markets. 266 Both the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court
affirmed the district court’s ruling. 267
Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision for the Court emphasized the presumption against extending the scope of federal regulation. 268 Does the Exchange
Act authorize extraterritorial jurisdiction? In a line of cases dating back into
the heady years of the welfare state (and functionalist modes of legal reasoning), the Second Circuit had answered this question in the affirmative. 269 Unlike the Supreme Court’s apparent quest for a “magic formula” in Aramco, the
Second Circuit’s long-standing approach to the text of the Exchange Act involved a functional analysis of what Congress sought as the broad purpose of
the Act and its role in the market. After all, to ask whether the Exchange Act
authorizes “extraterritorial jurisdiction” doesn’t exactly produce a clear answer. The lack of explicit text only furnishes an interpretive solution if the one
doing the judging has already picked an interpretive method disposed towards
textual closure. But even Scalia concedes that his brand of “neo-formalism”
isn’t required by the text of the Constitution. 270
In a functionalist frame of mind, the Second Circuit was historically more
interested in whether the purpose of the Act was to regulate market transactions that might have certain effects on U.S. markets. 271 If they did, Congress
probably would have wanted the Act to apply. Scalia condemned this approach, explaining, “[t]here is no more damning indictment of the ‘conduct’
and ‘effects’ tests than the Second Circuit’s own declaration that ‘the presence
or absence of any single factor which was considered significant in other cases . . . is not necessarily dispositive in future cases.” 272 For Scalia, functionalism presents us with little more than “judicial-speculation-made-law.” 273
265F
266F
267F
268F
269F
270F
271F
272F
273F
265
See id.
See id. at 252.
267
Id. at 252, 273.
268
See id. at 256–57.
269
See id. at 256–58.
270
See, e.g., SCALIA & GARNER, supra note 69, at 4.
271
For discussion, see Lea Brilmayer, The New Extraterritoriality: Morrison v. National Australia Bank, Legislative Supremacy, and the Presumption Against Extraterritorial Application of American Law, 40 SW. L. REV. 655, 659 n.31 (2011); William S. Dodge, Morrison’s Effects Test, 40 SW. L.
REV. 687, 691–92 (2011); Austin L. Parrish, Evading Legislative Jurisdiction, 87 NOTRE DAME L.
REV. 1673, 1697–1700 (2012).
272
Morrison, 561 U.S., at 257–59 (alteration in original).
273
Id. at 260.
266
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In a concurrence, Justice John Paul Stevens explained that while he
agreed with the result in the case, he disagreed with Scalia’s rejection of the
idea that Courts ought to “flesh out” an “elaboration” of congressional texts in
light of evolving social needs. 274 For Stevens, this is exactly what courts are
supposed to do with congressional texts. 275 But it would be a mistake to characterize Stevens’ decisions in this area as uniformly functionalist. In another
concurrence, this time in the context of the Endangered Species Act, Stevens
argued in an explicitly formalist mode. 276 Confronted with the question of
whether the Act applied to federal action in Egypt and Sri Lanka, Justice Stevens employed a textualist strategy in support of a highly conclusory analysis
of the Act’s text: was there an express statement in the Act indicating congressional intent to extend its reach beyond U.S. borders? 277 Answering in the negative, 278 Stevens’ energetic approach to Morrison was off the radar.
Justice Stephen Breyer, in contrast, has consistently argued in favor of
balancing tests and policy analysis. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court held in
the case F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd. v. Empagran S.A. that the Sherman Act did
not apply to price-fixing conduct where the foreign and domestic effects of the
conduct were independent of each other. 279 As evidenced in his muchdiscussed decision in Empagran, Breyer avoided the Court’s formalistic approach to the effects test in Hartford Fire Insurance Co., and instead asked
whether it would be “reasonable” to allow the Sherman Act to apply to a dispute with considerable foreign connections. 280 The dispute involved a worldwide price-fixing conspiracy among vitamins manufacturers, and there was no
doubt that the illegal activity had an effect on U.S. vitamins markets. 281 The
question for the Court was whether the Federal Trade and Antitrust Improvements Act barred the application of U.S. law to the instant claim—a claim by a
274 F
275F
276F
277F
278F
279F
280F
281F
274
See id. at 276–77 (Stevens, J., concurring).
See id.
276
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 586–87 (1992) (Stevens, J., concurring).
277
See id.
278
Id.
279
See 542 U.S. 155, 158–59 (2004).
280
See id. at 165 (2004) (“But why is it reasonable to apply those laws to foreign conduct insofar
as that conduct causes independent foreign harm and that foreign harm alone gives rise to the plaintiff’s claim? Like the former case, application of those laws creates a serious risk of interference with
a foreign nation’s ability independently to regulate its own commercial affairs. But, unlike the former
case, the justification for that interference seems insubstantial.”); Id. (citing RESTATEMENT (THIRD)
OF THE FOREIGN RELATIONS LAW OF THE UNITED STATES § 403(2) (1987)) (“determining reasonableness on basis of such factors as connections with regulating nation, harm to that nation’s interests,
extent to which other nations regulate, and the potential for conflict.”).
281
Id. at 159–60.
275
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foreign plaintiff against foreign defendants for injuries that were suffered beyond U.S. borders. 282 Breyer was unwilling to assume that the foreign injuries
were entangled with domestic injuries, and as a consequence placed the question entirely in the Restatement on Foreign Relations’ framework of reasonableness: “Why is it reasonable to apply this law to conduct that is significantly
foreign insofar as that conduct causes independent foreign harm and that foreign harm alone gives rise to the plaintiff’s claim? We can find no good answer to the question.” 283
Breyer’s neo-functionalism is similarly illustrated in his concurring opinion in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a 2013 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Alien Tort Statute did not extend to violations of the
“law of nations” which occur within the boundaries of a foreign nation. 284 In
that case, Nigerian nationals residing in the U.S. brought a claim under the Alien Tort Statute against British, Dutch, and Nigerian corporations. 285 As rendered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court’s opinion explained that congressional regulation of foreign corporations operating on foreign territory
found no basis in the text of the statute. 286 Tellingly, Chief Justice Roberts
stated that “the question is not what Congress has done but instead what courts
may do.” 287 This is a splendid example of the neoliberal anxiety about “big
government;” the job of the judiciary is not to expand congressional reach. To
do otherwise runs the risk of forcing courts into the business of making law.
In his concurring opinion, Breyer explained that the text of the statute is
not determinative of the question at all. 288 For him, the Court’s task is to identify the purposes of a statute, as well as the manner in which those purposes
track the needs of the United States. 289 Breyer believed that the statute ought
to be relevant when “the defendant’s conduct substantially and adversely affects an important American national interest, and that includes a distinct interest in preventing the United States from becoming a safe harbor (free of civil
as well as criminal liability) for a torturer or other common enemy of man282F
283 F
284F
285F
286F
287F
288F
289F
282
Id.
See id. at 166 (emphasis added); supra note 280 and accompanying text (presenting Justice
Breyer’s comments on the Restatement on Foreign Relations).
284
133 S. Ct. 1659, 1662–65 (2013). Kiobel has already generated a good deal of commentary.
See, e.g., Symposium, The New Territorialism and the Supreme Court, 99 CORNELL L. REV.
(forthcoming Sept. 2014).
285
Kiobel, 133 S. Ct., at 1662–63.
286
Id. at 1665.
287
Id. at 1664.
288
See id. at 1673–74 (Breyer, J., concurring).
289
See id.
283
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kind.” 290 For neo-functionalists like Justice Breyer, the text operates as a medium through which the judge engages in an activity, as opposed to a determinate grid from which the jurist gleans ready-made answers, as is the case for
Scalia and Roberts.
At times, Justice Anthony Kennedy has employed a similar argumentative
strategy. 291 In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Boumediene v. Bush that
inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba still had the habeas corpus privilege. 292 The
U.S. government’s position was that noncitizens designated as enemy combatants detained outside of U.S. territory had no claims on constitutional protections whatsoever. 293 In order to test this claim, Kennedy began with a lengthy
exploration through the “history and origins” of the habeas writ. 294 Although
Kennedy explained that “[t]he broad historical narrative of the writ and its
function is central to our analysis . . . . Diligent search by all parties reveals no
certain conclusions.” 295 For Kennedy, neither historical evidence pointing to
the purpose of the writ or its intended geographical scope, nor did a “categorical or formal conception of sovereignty . . . provide a comprehensive or altogether satisfactory explanation . . . .” 296 The problem with both the Government’s and the petitioner’s positions, Kennedy explained, was that “[b]oth arguments are premised . . . upon the assumption that the historical record is
complete and that the common law, if properly understood, yields a definite
answer to the questions before us. There are reasons to doubt both assumptions.” 297
Kennedy’s path towards a resolution was ultimately illuminated neither
by textual analysis nor the historical purpose of the writ. Instead, Kennedy
turned towards the mantra of “practical considerations.” 298 Finding a concern
with prudence shot through the relevant precedent, Kennedy lauded a “functional approach” 299 and a mode of analysis supported by “objective factors and
290F
291F
292F
293F
294F
295F
296F
297F
298F
299F
290
Id. at 1674.
But see generally United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013) (exemplifying Justice
Kennedy’s occasional deviation from this argumentative strategy); Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S. Ct.
876 (2010) (same).
292
553 U.S. 723, 732 (2008).
293
Id. at 739.
294
See id. at 739–46.
295
Id. at 746.
296
Id. at 750–51.
297
Id. at 752. Justice Scalia responded to this point by claiming that, if true, this would require
the Court to defer to the Court of Appeals, and not open up towards a discretionary evaluation of
“practical considerations.” Id. at 832, 840 (Scalia, J., dissenting).
298
Boumediene, 553 U.S. at 759 (majority opinion).
299
Id. at 764.
291
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practical concerns, not formalism.” 300 As a result, Kennedy suggested that the
instant question be resolved by balancing the citizenship and wartime status of
the detainees, the location of the apprehension and detention, and the practical
considerations relevant to whether the plaintiff should get a habeas claim. 301
Ultimately, Kennedy concluded that there were “few practical barriers to the
running of the writ.” 302
To be clear, the point of the preceding pages has not been to identify a
partisan split on the Court. There’s plenty of literature on that over-wrought
point. 303 What’s interesting here is the methodological split, not the split on the
merits. In cases like Morrison and Kiobel, functionalist and formalist modes of
argument are vying in the same temporal location. They each enjoy a similar
amount of pedigree and respect, suggesting a situation in which the residue of
1980’s neo-formalism and Obama-era neo-functionalism sit uncomfortably
together, neither holding a dominant foothold in the storehouse of legal materials. A langue seems missing here in the way that it was present at the heights
of classical and social legal thought.
A basic grammar for contemporary legal thought might seem like it’s
missing, but I don’t think that it is. This is legal pragmatism at the level of explaining the systemic relation between cases like Boumediene, Empagran, Aramco, and Morrison. My suggestion is not that we see individual judges as
practicing legal pragmatism; some of them would no doubt reject such a characterization. Rather, my argument is that legal pragmatism explains the sustained and conflicted deployment of argumentative outlooks that have returned
from the dead. Further, when we bring legal pragmatism into conversation with
liberal legalism, the product is the langue of contemporary legal thought:
pragmatic liberalism.
300F
301F
302F
303 F
B. The Basis of Contemporary Legal Thought: Pragmatic Liberalism
In the discussion that follows, I describe the emergence of legal pragmatism: the theory making sense out of the apparent schizophrenia we’ve canvassed in the extraterritoriality cases. 304 In my view, the encounter between the
304F
300
Id. For Justice Scalia’s response to this point in particular, see id. at 836–42 (Scalia, J., dissenting).
301
Id. at 766 (majority opinion).
302
Id. at 770.
303
See generally Robert A. Dahl, Decision-Making in a Democracy: The Supreme Court as a
National Policy-Maker, 6 J. PUB. L. 279 (1957) (discussing the role of the Supreme Court as a political institution).
304
See infra notes 308–327 and accompanying text.
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recent arrival of legal pragmatism and the debris of liberal legalism (i.e. classic
and modern) has produced a new structure of legal thought: pragmatic liberalism. My description of pragmatic liberalism therefore begins with an account
of legal pragmatism. 305 It starts in Section B.1 with a general review of the
self-conscious deployment of legal pragmatism. 306 This is legal pragmatism at
the lexical level of parole, rather than as grammar. In contrast, Section B.2
turns to the space in which pragmatism assists in the stabilization of the apparently contradictory situation of conflicting modes of legal reasoning. 307 This is
pragmatic liberalism working at the deep level of grammar (langue). We can
therefore think of legal pragmatism as functioning on two very different
planes: (1) at the lexical plane of legal argument, and (2) at the grammatical or
systemic plane, explaining and compelling the persistence of conflicting
modes of legal reasoning.
305F
306F
307F
1. Legal Pragmatism
Is contemporary legal thought merely a kind of conceptual thrift store,
crammed with musty odds and ends? Admittedly, it is tempting to see it this
way. When we read the decisions from above, they come across as a scrambled
field of argumentative strategies with little in the way of tying them together.
Despite this sensation, I believe there’s something else going on here, and my
suggestion is that something called “legal pragmatism” has much to do with
our contemporary situation. 308 In other words, it is no accident that contempo308F
305
See infra notes 308–331 and accompanying text.
See infra notes 308–327 and accompanying text.
307
See infra notes 328–331 and accompanying text.
308
Although legal pragmatism is sometimes thought of as an early twentieth century phenomenon, I believe that it is a distinctly contemporary structure of legal argument. Desautels-Stein, Experimental Pragmatism, supra note 37, at 187. To be sure, “legal pragmatism” is often dated back to
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and the legal realists. See, e.g., Thomas C. Grey, Holmes and Legal
Pragmatism, 41 STAN. L. REV. 787, 806 (1989). But Holmes and the later realists are not examples of
the juristic mind structured by pragmatic liberalism. In fact, Holmes is not a great representative of
classic liberalism or modern liberalism either, and realists like Robert Hale are representative of neither. Desautels-Stein, Market, supra note 8, at 461. It is true that American pragmatist philosophy had
some influence on thinkers like Holmes, Walter Wheeler Cook, and others, but we might want to label
the result as it is not “legal pragmatism” of the sort described here. Desautels-Stein, Experimental
Pragmatism, supra note 37, at 190. See generally JOHN HENRY SCHLEGEL, AMERICAN LEGAL REALISM AND EMPIRICAL SOCIAL SCIENCE (1995) (discussing, in part, Walter Wheeler Cook and pragmatic logic). Pragmatic liberalism is the pragmatic oscillation between the discredited moves we associate
with formalism (classic liberalism) and functionalism (modern liberalism), but Holmes and the realists
were writing in the midst of classic liberalism and the very beginnings of modern liberalism. See David Kennedy, “The Rule of Law,” Political Choices, and Development Common Sense, in Trubek &
Santos, supra note 21, at 95. Or to put the point differently, in the early twentieth century, when the
306
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rary legal thought is comprised of neo-functionalist and neo-formalist modes
of legal reasoning. Rather, it is the work of a new and integrating language of
law: legal pragmatism. Before I explain more directly the relation between legal pragmatism and contemporary legal thought, let me first give a brief outline of legal pragmatism itself. 309
It is helpful to begin with what Richard Posner has called “everyday
pragmatism.” 310 This is the vulgar and vernacular form of pragmatism walking
the streets, alive in the newspapers, and serving as the manifesto for so much
of President Barack Obama’s governing platform. 311 Rather than referring to it
as everyday pragmatism, I prefer the more descriptive label “eclectic pragmatism.” 312 When situated in the context of legal analysis, eclectic pragmatism
takes on several features. 313 First, eclectics are skeptical of “big theory.”
Whatever advantages might have been available in the past, the days of grand
theorizing are mostly over, since for eclectics it is generally not useful to approach a problem with a pre-conceived set of abstractions. In almost every
case, a big theory or ethical abstraction will be over–or under–inclusive. It will
309F
310 F
311F
312F
313F
realists were getting to work, modern liberalism’s fame was only just emerging and the pragmatic
reaction to modern liberalism’s demise was still in the distant future.
309
For a recent discussion of legal pragmatism, see generally John C.P. Goldberg, Introduction:
Pragmatism and Private Law, 125 HARV. L. REV. 1640 (2012). For other influential treatments, see
generally STANLEY FISH, DOING WHAT COMES NATURALLY: CHANGE, RHETORIC, AND THE PRACTICE OF THEORY IN LITERARY AND LEGAL STUDIES (1989); RICHARD A. POSNER, LAW, PRAGMATISM, AND DEMOCRACY (2005); William H. Simon, Solving Problems vs. Claiming Rights: The
Pragmatist Challenge to Legal Liberalism, 46 WM. & MARY L. REV. 127 (2004).
310
Posner, supra note 309, at 4.
311
See, e.g., Transcript: Inaugural Address of Barack Obama, WASH. POST (Jan. 20, 2009)
http://media.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/politics/documents/Obama_Inaugural_Address_012009.html,
archived at http://perma.cc/9S5W-HMZ7 (“[t]he question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . . . .”) (emphasis added).
312
See Desautels-Stein, Eclectics, supra note 9, at 590–91 (“The eclectic style has a taste for
consequentialism, a mild dose of empirical study mixed with a gentle historical gloss, a lukewarm
dissatisfaction with legal formalism and grand theory, is preoccupied with adjudication, and gets
queasy around ‘political issues.’ This queasiness, or political nausea, comports with Rorty and Fish’s
belief that it is very important to maintain a separation between the private world of metaphysical
contemplation and the public world of political and legal discourse. The other elements consist in an
affirmation of the private pragmatist mode of reasoning: ‘an encompassing orientation towards inquiry—one that stresses the agent’s perspective; the interaction of impulse, habit, and reflection; and a
holistic approach to justification.’ The confluence of these two elements—an affirmation of pragmatic
decision-making and an affirmation of a separation between philosophy and law—produces eclectic
pragmatism.”) (citations omitted).
313
For explanations of legal pragmatism that inspired this account, see generally Daniel A. Farber, Reinventing Brandeis: Legal Pragmatism for the Twenty-First Century, 1995 U. ILL. L. REV. 163;
Thomas C. Grey, Freestanding Legal Pragmatism, 18 CARDOZO L. REV. 21 (1996); Posner, supra
note 309; Richard Rorty, The Banality of Pragmatism and the Poetry of Justice, in PRAGMATISM IN
LAW AND SOCIETY 89–97 (Michael Brint & William Weaver eds., 1991).
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either have too much or too little, never quite finding itself in what astronomers call the Goldilocks position.
This first feature leads into the second. Problems need to be addressed on
a case-by-case basis. Problem-solving is at its best when it is ad hoc, getting a
feel as best it can for the facts at hand. Some problems with similar features
may require one sort of solution on a given day, and yet a very different answer
on another. For the eclectic, however, this is not incoherence or inconsistency;
it is responsibility and respect. It orients the pragmatist towards the actual
world, and away from abstraction. Beyond distrust of grand theory and affinity
for ad hoc decision-making, the eclectic pragmatist is fairly catholic about the
means required to solve a particular problem. The mantra is “doing what
works.” That is, it becomes somewhat meaningless to worry about whether a
certain methodology is “conservative” or “liberal,” or associated with any particular ideological position. If it will “get the job done,” why not give it a spin?
A third feature of eclectic pragmatism is a willingness on the part of the
eclectic to deploy formalist modes of legal reasoning when the situation seems
to require it. Thus, eclecticism is not nearly as hostile with respect to formalism as was the functionalism of modern liberalism. Of course, the tried and
true eclectic doesn’t actually have any faith in formalism—but just the same,
he doesn’t have any faith in functionalism either. He only has faith in shifting
his resources to the tools that seem most likely to resolve the problem. Posner
has suggested that this “openness” involves an implicit understanding on the
part of a judge that at times she will decide like a Justice Breyer or Justice
Kennedy, while at others like a Justice Scalia or Chief Justice Roberts. 314
These are the “formalist pockets” that riddle the “case-by-case” fabric of
pragmatic adjudication. 315 If a particular case is “better” handled in a classical
style, the option is there. If the modern outlook is more “appropriate,” go for it.
The problem for the eclectic pragmatist does not lie in the need to keep faith
with a special mode of reasoning or problem-solving. The problem is only ever
the problem itself, and solving it. It does not matter too much how it gets
solved, just so long as it does.
A fourth feature involves the pragmatist’s embrace of the status quo.
Pragmatists are interested in change and progress, but only very gradually. Politics could be better; law could be better; the economy could be better; everything could be. And it will be, in all likelihood. But the route between here and
there is one to be taken incrementally, minimally, even naturally. Reforms
314 F
315F
314
315
Posner, supra note 309, at 59–60.
Id.
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ought not to be revolutionary, but should take their cues from the status quo.
This centrism is not necessarily a result of a belief about the superiority of any
particular ideas animating the world; it is rather that the world is pretty good as
it is, and probably the best it has ever been. Until someone shows how life
might be better, we should make do with what we have.
The tried and true eclectic comes off as hard-working, free of ideological
influence, and focused on the here-and-now rather than the ivory tower. He’s
all DIY, and it’s no small wonder why pragmatism has achieved such popularity. The eclectic pragmatist is the man of the day, swimming in the zeitgeist,
having traded in a useless faith in ideas for a practical faith in “problemsolving.”
But, of course, pragmatism has its problems, too. 316 Problem-solving is
surely necessary, but who sets the problem in the first instance? In addressing
her problem, how is it that she came to frame this and not that as a “problem”?
Why does she consistently choose one kind of problem, ignoring the rest? How
does she know exactly when what she’s been doing has “worked”? What does
“problem-solving” even mean in a context where “problems” are merely patterns of discourse? What if it was the case that the discourse of “pragmatic
problem-solving” was actually the problem itself? How would we solve that
problem? And what of all the people that don’t think that the world is all that
great, and aren’t as happy to let “nature” take its course? Who is it that counts
in deciding about the status of the status quo? Does pragmatic problem-solving
privilege certain sorts of people over others? Eclectics rarely confront these
problems, given the pragmatic necessity of just getting along with business as
usual. Faced with these questions, the eclectic responds: “Stop nagging, I’m
working!”
Illustrative of the eclectic position are pragmatists like Cass Sunstein,
Tom Grey, Daniel Farber, and even Richard Rorty, who—unlike the Justices of
the Supreme Court—come much closer to personally emulating the features of
eclectic pragmatism I discussed above. Of course, my abstract description
doesn’t really capture each of their positions in their entirety, and to be sure,
there are tremendous differences among them as well. But for each of these
thinkers there is value in explicitly bringing pragmatist arguments into the legal work itself. 317
Although eclectic pragmatism dominates the lexicon (parole) of contemporary legal thought, there are other varieties of legal pragmatism that break
316F
317 F
316
See Amy J. Cohen, Negotiation, Meet New Governance: Interests, Skills, and Selves, 33 LAW
& SOC. INQUIRY 503, 544–45 (2008).
317
See Desautels-Stein, Eclectics, supra note 9, at 590–91.
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with the eclectic mold. It is beyond the scope of this Article to spend much
time with them, but two other noteworthy groups of legal pragmatists are the
economists and experimentalists. 318 Economic pragmatists, like Richard Posner, begin in the posture of the eclectic pragmatist. Nevertheless, when it
comes down to determining the most practical or the most reasonable approach
to the problem they are hoping to solve, they turn to the discipline of economics for assistance. 319 It is for this reason that the distance between economic
pragmatists and traditional law and economics scholars ends up closing so
quickly. In contrast, experimental pragmatists like William Simon go in a quite
different direction. 320 Although they also begin in the eclectic posture, they
turn towards the pragmatist philosophers for assistance, and in particular John
Dewey. 321 Thus, while all three camps of legal pragmatists (eclectics, economists, experimentalists) are singing to the tune of the “everyday” sensibility I
described above, they sing at different volumes. The eclectics are shouting
from the mountain-tops. The economists are pretty loud, too, though they
muddle the chorus with a bevy of not-very-pragmatic sounding ideas. And as
for the experimentalists, we can recognize the same eclectic motifs, but there’s
a good deal more riffing going on here as well.
Another way of making this point about the differentiated lexicon of legal
pragmatism is to focus on the way in which all pragmatists understand the distinction between law and politics. In every case, these pragmatists share a postclassical starting point with the affirmation that “law is politics.” As discussed
earlier in the Article, the master-langue of liberal legalism posits a distinction
between a natural, pre-political world and an artificial, public space. The liberal concept of the individual derives its content from an argument about human
nature, and the concept of society is understood as the necessary mechanism
for enabling and protecting the individual will. In liberalism, “law” emerges as
the essential tool for separating the public from the private, and the individual
from the social. Where “politics” remains subjective and capricious, “law”
stands out as authoritative and objective. This sharp distinction between law
(adjudication) and politics (legislation) was a key aspect of the classic style,
318 F
319F
320F
321F
318
Id.
See, e.g., Richard A. Posner, Legal Pragmatism, 35 METAPHILOSOPHY 147, 152 (2004).
320
For broad discussion, see generally Amy Cohen, The Law and Political Economy of Food:
Reflections on Size, Scale, and Contemporary Legal Thought, 78 LAW & CONTEMP. PROBS. (forthcoming 2015).
321
See generally William H. Simon, The Institutional Configuration of Deweyan Democracy, 9
CONTEMP. PRAGMATISM 5 (2012).
319
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and alive but muted in the modern. In both cases, law was something other
than politics.
When the cry “law is politics!” rang through law schools in the 1970’s
and ‘80’s, 322 many modern liberals probably felt a splash of déjà vu. 323 After
all, modern liberalism was baptized in the realist call for the politics of law. 324
1980, however, was not 1930, and in the eyes of the new critics, the time was
ripe for a reawakening. 325 For these thinkers, the calcification of modern liberalism during the legal process years resulted in a bland and bleary-eyed recognition that law was political in some unthreatening way, but blind to politics in
all the ways that mattered. 326 In a way reminiscent of the taming of modern
liberalism after the realist reformation, legal pragmatism similarly domesticated the heretics of the 1970’s and ‘80’s, culminating in a mainstream acceptance
of the commonplace idea that “law is politics.” 327 Today, we are once again
face to face with the bland and bleary, nodding in agreement with the political
basis of law while seemingly oblivious to what such recognition requires in
fact. This is the outlook of legal pragmatism: the outlook of the dead.
At the same time, however, pragmatists espouse a confidence in the belief
that while law is political, it is also something very different from politics.
Rights talk, in both its “liberal” associations with civil rights and its “conservative” associations with property/contract rights, is a reflection of this belief.
Although we might suspect that this view of an autonomous law (i.e., legal
rights precede political determinations) is an outlier in the pragmatist lexicon, I
don’t think that it is. Recall that legal pragmatists navigate the machinery of
classic liberalism in addition to that of modern liberalism. The pragmatic belief
in movement, oscillation, and the ad hoc facilitates the redemption of a classic
liberal belief in autonomous rights, so long as such redemption is only temporary, only strategic. This is a mode of legal consciousness which actively and
affirmatively sustains the idea of rights talk; indeed, there is no reason to dis322 F
323F
324F
325F
326F
327F
322
For a prominent instance of the slogan in print, see John Henry Schlegel, Notes Towards an
Intimate, Opinionated, and Affectionate History of the Conference of Critical Legal Studies, 36 STAN.
L. REV. 391, 411 (1984). For a prominent instance of the reaction, see generally Paul D. Carrington,
Of Law and the River, 34 J. LEGAL EDUC. 222 (1984).
323
See generally, e.g., ANDREW ALTMAN, CRITICAL LEGAL STUDIES: A LIBERAL CRITIQUE
(1990).
324
See HORWITZ, supra note 167, at 1–31.
325
Roberto Mangabeira provides an example of this reawakening. See generally ROBERTO MANGABEIRA UNGER, THE CRITICAL LEGAL STUDIES MOVEMENT (1986).
326
Peller, supra note 78, at 1154–55.
327
See, e.g., Louis Henkin, How Nations Behave 88–98 (1979).
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pense with it. In the view of the eclectic, it is a mistake to throw anything
away, regardless of its history. It may suit your purposes tomorrow.
2. Grammar and Faith
In now moving from pragmatism as lexicon to pragmatism as grammar,
let us come back to the slate of Supreme Court decisions discussed above. 328
The Court swung back and forth, allowing the majority in some instances to
interpret the scope of governmental intervention broadly, while at others permitting a more favorable view of market autonomy. 329 Neither position appears to have a dominant hold on the contemporary legal mind. We see the
Court arbitrarily shifting between the neo-formalist and neo-functionalist
modes of reasoning we have already associated with classic liberalism and
modern liberalism, respectively. 330
In my view, the decisions illustrate more than a field in ruins. Instead, I
see it as the work of eclectic pragmatism. To clarify once more, I should say
that I don’t think that any of the justices I’ve discussed are necessarily selfconscious “eclectics” in the way that I have described it. My argument is rather
that eclectic pragmatism explains the systemic and apparently contradictory
oscillation between modes of reasoning by mediating the idea of contradiction
in such a way that it only rarely comes across as a conflict that warrants any
attention. Eclectic pragmatism does not carry a brief for either Justice Breyer’s
neo-functionalism or Justice Scalia’s neo-formalism—it carries a brief for a
language of legal thought entirely content with a systemic case of incoherence.
“Whatever works” is the contemporary response—the eclectic’s response.
Consequently, eclectic pragmatism offers a counter-narrative about the
contemporary situation. This is not, the eclectic suggests, a state of ruin in
which the field of argument has been destabilized. On the contrary, contemporary legal thought is thoroughly stabilized by legal pragmatism. Or to be more
precise, it is legal pragmatism that sustains and nourishes the appearance of
stability, pushing out of sight the suspicion that our pragmatic style of argument is defined by the conflict between opposable and discredited modes of
legal reasoning, outlooks that have long since died in battle.
To push this idea further, I want to tie it in explicitly to the semiotic
langue. As discussed above, in classical liberalism the jurist’s work was governed by a certain grammar. That grammar was constituted by a family of ideas
328 F
329F
330F
328
See supra notes 241–303 and accompanying text.
See id.
330
Kennedy, Three Globalizations, supra note 21, at 63.
329
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including individualism, legal formalism, and a strong preference for quasinatural background rules over the artificiality of foreground rules. In modern
liberalism, the grammar shifted towards social interdependence, legal functionalism, and a general preference for foreground rules over background
rules. In both cases, I suggested that the modern and classic modes shared
common ground in a meta-grammar of liberal legalism.
But, we can now finally ask, what of the relation between speaker and the
language? In each of the classic and modern liberal styles, there was an expectation that there was something essentially right about arguing in either a classical or modern mode. That is, jurists did not tend to see these modes as
“styles” or “argumentative strategies” at all—but as jurisprudential theories
somehow connected to objectivism and the Rule of Law. In classic liberalism,
for example, jurists operating within the structure experienced their relation to
the law as necessitated by the Rule of Law itself. In modern liberalism, there
was a similar belief: only here there was the intuition that rather than defending the Rule of Law from within the legal materials, they saw the Rule of Law
as necessitating a thick connection with social needs and interests. It seems
unnecessary to suggest that the faith of a jurist in a legal structure operates at
any obviously conscious level. In fact, I am suggesting that faith in the system
functions mostly at the grammatical level of syntax (langue).
One might wonder whether anyone has faith in contemporary legal
thought. After all, if my presentation has any accuracy, it would seem that one
of the chief characteristics of contemporary legal thought is an eclectic backand-forth between legal zombies. Classic liberalism became unfashionable, as
did modern liberalism, and today we appear to operate on the presumption that
there is nothing essentially right about either of those deadened modes of legal
consciousness. But it is here that we can glimpse the grammar of pragmatic
liberalism peeking through.
The contemporary jurist has lost faith in classic liberalism and modern
liberalism. She believes that neither individualism mixed with strong background rules, nor social interdependence mixed with strong foreground rules,
provide us with the “right” way to “think like a lawyer” or, more ambitiously,
defend the Rule of Law. But, and here is the key, the pragmatic liberal does
have faith, and she has faith in the meta-grammar of liberal legalism itself.
Thus, unlike in prior modes of thought, the pragmatist’s faith is unattached to
particular ideas about the relation between market and state, public and private,
individual and society. The contemporary pragmatist neither believes in laissez-faire nor the welfare state. But she does believe that markets are there, and
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while she’s lost faith in any special theory to explain the distinction between
market and state, she does have faith in the idea that some combination of liberal ideas might do the job. 331 But the primal scene of the pragmatic liberal’s
faith is not even in the idea of the combination—it is a belief in “doing what
works,” and doing what works with the building blocks of liberal legalism.
It is the coming together of faith in the meta-grammar and a loss of faith
in the exclusivity of either the classic or modern modes which sustains the apparent incoherence and fragmentation of contemporary legal thought. It is also
what constitutes a new langue for the pragmatic liberal, a langue which includes the contents of the classic and modern styles, plus the essential faith
that out of some combination of these broken pieces workable solutions will
become available. It is for this reason that the basis of contemporary legal
thought is “pragmatic liberalism”: the jurist pragmatically and confidently
slides back and forth between the ruins of liberalism’s intellectual past. But it
is a mistake to understand this merely as a description of the random banging
around of the classical and modern styles. Pragmatism mediates and sustains
the oscillation between the fragments of the classic liberal and modern liberal
styles. Pragmatism provides the structure, and persuades us that the structure is
worth defending.
331F
CONCLUSION
As was explicit in this Article’s opening pages, and as has been implicit
throughout, we are in the midst of a crisis of legal identity. The crux of that
crisis is pragmatic liberalism. As I intimated above, pragmatic liberalism might
be likened to a sublimated neurosis. Like any neurosis, the deep conflict in
contemporary legal thought between neo-formalist and neo-functionalist
modes of reasoning produces anxieties. These anxieties are now running the
gamut, generating concerns that range from the pedantic to the hysterical. But
whatever the sort, we seem to have arrived at a consensus in the legal profession, and it is a consensus about the fact that something is deeply wrong.
Upon reflection, it would be surprising if this underlying conflict in legal
thought failed to generate these anxieties. After all, it was in the context of late
nineteenth century imperialism and revolution that modern liberals first
launched their critiques of capitalism. These were high stakes, to say the least.
And a hundred years later, the so-called neoliberal attack on the moderns was
331
This point resonates with Duncan Kennedy’s view that “the experience of legal argument as
operations defines the ‘tone’ of modern legal consciousness, the loss of the sense of the organic or
unmediated in legal thought.” KENNEDY, supra note 201, at 131.
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as explosive, in its way. The stakes in these debates, and in the transitions from
classic liberalism to modern liberalism and beyond, have always been so. This
is all to say that when addressing the question of what it means to “think like a
lawyer today,” and when we confront the surprising alliance between the outlooks of the dead, who wouldn’t expect problems? Contradictory impulses
about how to argue, about how to frame problems, and about how to resolve
them can hardly be healthy, can it?
And it is here that we witness the genius of pragmatism, since it is precisely the mission of pragmatism to convince us that everything’s just fine and
that for however vicious might have been the assaults on the classic and modern liberal outlooks, we are impervious today. Of course, everything isn’t fine
at all in terms of legal thought—the conflict between the classic and modern
zombie armies rages on. But legal pragmatism counsels us at the deepest levels
that faith in the master grammar of liberal legalism is warranted, that the conflict is really only a “theoretical” difficulty, and that if we turn our attention to
what works, it will keep on working.
But it is for this very reason that I am suggesting we see pragmatic liberalism as a sublimated neurosis. The neurotic condition of contemporary legal
thought is clear. But it is only clear when we bypass pragmatist complaints to
the contrary and dig into its structural depths. Legal pragmatism pushes the
conflict away, mediates it, and produces the sensation that for whatever problems we may be experiencing as a legal profession, as a collective identity,
those problems will be resolved with a pragmatic response. We never actually
get at the real conflict, the real terms in the debate between liberalism and its
others. We never get there because pragmatism is always forcing a lawyer’s
thinking away from the real trouble and towards the more socially acceptable
postures of “problem-solving” and eclecticism, and sometimes, philistinism. It
is in this sense that pragmatism is a defense mechanism, sublimating the neurosis of contemporary legal thought.
But is it necessary to understand pragmatism in this way? Is pragmatic
liberalism inherently unhealthy, always enabling our crises of legal identity
rather than ending them? I very much doubt that as a structure of legal thought,
pragmatism is a natural sickness. Perhaps the pragmatic oscillation between
rival liberal theories is just what we need. Perhaps a direct confrontation with
the deadened state of contemporary legal thought might prove too much, and
so it is, on this view, pragmatism itself which facilitates our ascent into an increasingly better world. Without the mediating power of pragmatic liberalism,
perhaps the anxieties we experience today would prove trifling next to the raw
terror of thinking like a lawyer in a world bereft of our pragmatist protector.
Maybe. But I suspect we have more to gain than lose in digging deeper
into the intellectual sources of our profession’s internal conflicts. If we return
to Pierre Schlag’s image of the night-hikers, it might very well turn out that
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those pragmatists, so set on moving forward despite their blindness, had been
right all along. It might turn out that pragmatism is a blessing, not a curse. But
unless and until we stop and interrogate the structural depth of the crisis in
contemporary legal thought, we just won’t know. And I’m all for knowing.
Aren’t you?
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