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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Modern Pluralism

My cavalcade of fall book notices continues with a superb collection. Modern Pluralism: Anglo-American Debates Since 1880 is a collection edited and introduced by Mark Bevir and published by Cambridge University Press. As Bevir notes in his introduction, the book "trac[es] the history of pluralism" from the late nineteenth century to today "and thereby enrich[es] our understanding of the nature of pluralism and its contribution to current policies." It describes and devotes sections to each of the "three main traditions of modern pluralism," which are distinguished somewhat differently and more clearly than they often are in the legal literature: "the liberal constitutional tradition, the radical socialist tradition, and the empirical tradition."

Those of us in the legal academy (all ten or so of us) who are interested in reexamining and, to some extent, reviving interest in the British pluralists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, such as Laski, Maitland, Figgis, and Cole (and their German forebear and influence, Gierke)--a phenomenon that seems to rise and fall like clockwork every generation or so--will find special interest in the first four chapters. I am particularly taken by Jacob Levy's paper, "From liberal constitutionalism to pluralism," which seeks to place the British pluralists in a liberal rather than a non- or anti-liberal context, a move that he says is made "oddly infrequently." Levy, like some legal scholars I know, "remain[s] convinced that the pluralists made real intellectual progress, and have something to teach us still as we struggle with questions about freedom of association, the limits of the state model of absolute sovereignty, and the relations among individuals, intermediate groups, and the state." In an age of cases like Christian Legal Society, Citizens United, Hosanna-Tabor, and Fisher, there are plenty of reasons for legal scholars to find this material interesting and valuable. And if Levy's argument helps create room for conventional modern liberals and fans of the British pluralists to break bread together, all the better.

I'm still dipping into the book, but the whole thing looks very worthwhile. It is expensive--priced for institutional purchase at some $90 for a 250-page collection--but well worth having your library order. Enjoy!     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on September 27, 2012 at 10:03 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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Looks great, Paul. Congrats to Jacob.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Sep 27, 2012 1:15:52 PM

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