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William W. Fisher III, Legal Theory and Legal Education, 1920-2000, in 3 The Cambridge History of Law in America 34 (Michael Grossberg & Christopher Tomlins eds., 2008).

Abstract: The overall trajectory of American legal theory during the twentieth century was as follows. At the outset, a formalist faith gripped the judiciary and the law schools. Resistance to that vision among judges, lawyers, and law teachers gradually increased, ultimately finding full expression in the legal realist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. The realist wave ebbed in the 1940s, but left behind a host of new questions concerning the nature and scope of judicial discretion, the role of “policy” in lawmaking and legal interpretation, the appropriate relationship between public and private power, which branches of government should be entrusted with which legal issues, and, most broadly, the meaning and feasibility of “the rule of law.” After World War II, a new orthodoxy emerged, offering answers to those questions that seemed convincing to most legal scholars and lawmakers. Beginning in the 1960s, that new faith – dubbed by its successors, “process theory” – in turn came under attack, not from a single direction but from many angles simultaneously. The attackers, marching under the banners of “law and economics,” “law and society,” “Kantian liberalism,” “republicanism,” “critical legal studies,” and “feminist legal theory,” offered radically different visions of the nature and purposes of law. Each group attracted many adherents, but none swept the field. The net result is that, in the early twenty-first century, legal discourse in the United States consists of a cacophonous combination of issues and arguments originally developed by rival movements, some now defunct and others still with us.