Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Roscoe Pound Professor of Law
Areas of Interest
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Critical Legal Studies Movement: Another Time, A Greater Task (Verso 2015).
Critical legal studies is the most important development in progressive thinking about law of the past half century. It has inspired the practice of legal analysis as institutional imagination, exploring, with the materials of the law, alternatives for society. The Critical Legal Studies Movement was written as the manifesto of the movement by its central figure. This new edition includes a revised version of the original text, preceded by an extended essay in which its author discusses what is happening now and what should happen next in legal thought.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger & Lee Smolin, The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy (Cambridge Univ. Press 2015).
Cosmology is in crisis. The more we discover, the more puzzling the universe appears to be. How and why are the laws of nature what they are? A philosopher and a physicist, world-renowned for their radical ideas in their fields, argue for a revolution. To keep cosmology scientific, we must replace the old view in which the universe is governed by immutable laws by a new one in which laws evolve. Then we can hope to explain them. The revolution that Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin propose relies on three central ideas. There is only one universe at a time. Time is real: everything in the structure and regularities of nature changes sooner or later. Mathematics, which has trouble with time, is not the oracle of nature and the prophet of science; it is simply a tool with great power and immense limitations. The argument is readily accessible to non-scientists as well as to the physicists and cosmologists whom it challenges.
Tamara Lothian & Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Crisis, Slump, Superstition and Recovery: Thinking and Acting Beyond Vulgar Keynesianism, (Columbia Univ. Ctr. for Law & Econ. Studies, Working Paper No. 394, 2011).
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The intellectual and practical response to the worldwide crisis of 2007-2009 has exposed the poverty of prevailing ideas about how economies work and fail. The transformative opportunity presented by the crisis has largely been squandered; but the opportunity for insight has not. Insight today can support transformation tomorrow. The present debate about the crisis and the subsequent slump has largely suppressed two themes of major importance. The first theme is the relation of finance to the productive agenda of society. The second theme is the link between redistribution and recovery. A pseudo-democratization of credit has been made to do the work of redistribution. Yet the most important form of redistribution is not retrospective and compensatory; it is the reshaping of economic and educational arrangements to broaden opportunity and enhance capabilities. Fiscal and monetary stimulus is rarely enough to redress the effects of a major economic crisis. The proper role of a stimulus is to play for time by preventing the aggravation of crisis and prefiguring a program of recovery and reconstruction. The vulgar Keynesianism embraced by many contemporary progressives fails to offer a theoretical guide to such a program of recovery. However, the fault does not lie solely in the vulgarized version of Keynes’s ideas; it lies in the ideas themselves and in the whole mainstream of economic analysis that grew out of the marginalist revolution. Law and legal thought are integral to the theoretical alternative explored in this essay, because they provide the institutional imagination with indispensable equipment. This essay takes a first step in the effort to develop an intellectual alternative. It does so by outlining an approach to our present problems of crisis, slump, and recovery.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger & Cornel West, Progressive Politics and What Lies Ahead, The Nation, November 23, 1998, at 11.
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Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Science and Politics Between Domesticated and Radicalized Pragmatism, 10 Sci. Context 85 (1997).
This paper introduces a distinction between two understandings of the pragmatic tradition: domesticated and radicalized pragmatism. The main difference between these two views concerns the feasibility and moral legitimacy of a radical critique of an existing practice such as science, politics, and so on. It is argued that domesticated pragmatism, with its emphasis on local rather than global perspective, has led to trivialization and degeneration of self-reflective critique. Without rejecting pragmatism as such, this paper urges a reinterpretation of this tradition so as to make room for more thorough forms of critique of both science and social practice.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Critical Legal Studies Movement, 96 Harv. L. Rev. 561 (1983).
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, A Program for Late Twentieth-Century Psychiatry, 139 Am. J. Pyschiatry 155 (1982).
The author argues against conceptions of the current state of psychiatry that either accept eclecticism as natural or treat some specific biological or psychodynamic model as the true core of psychiatry. He presents a unified program for biological and psychodynamic explanation and therapy. The biological aspect of this agenda supports a unitary view of mental illness but dissociates this view from reductionist premises. The psychological aspect treats particular psychodynamic theories, including Freud's, as special cases of a more basic account of affect and imagination. The program has unequivocal diagnostic, explanatory, and therapeutic implications as well as a larger social meaning.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Illusions of Necessity in Economic Order, 68 Am. Econ. Rev. 369 (1978).