Against the Law

Against the Law

Constitutional Conflicts

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Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: Published: October 1996


A fundamental critique of American law and legal thought, Against the Law consists of a series of essays written from three different perspectives that coalesce into a deep criticism of contemporary legal culture. Paul F. Campos, Pierre Schlag, and Steven D. Smith challenge the conventional representations of the legal system that are articulated and defended by American legal scholars. Unorthodox, irreverent, and provocative, Against the Law demonstrates that for many in the legal community, law has become a kind of substitute religion—an essentially idolatrous practice composed of systematic self-misrepresentation and self-deception.
Linked by a persistent inquiry into the nature and identity of “the law,” these essays are informed by the conviction that the conventional representations of law, both in law schools and the courts, cannot be taken at face value—that the law, as commonly conceived, makes no sense. The authors argue that the relentlessly normative prescriptions of American legal thinkers are frequently futile and, indeed, often pernicious. They also argue that the failure to recognize the role that authorship must play in the production of legal thought plagues both the teaching and the practice of American law. Ranging from the institutional to the psychological and metaphysical deficiencies of the American legal system, the depth of criticism offered by Against the Law is unprecedented.
In a departure from the nearly universal legitimating and reformist tendencies of American legal thought, this book will be of interest not only to the legal academics under attack in the book, but also to sociologists, historians, and social theorists. More particularly, it will engage all the American lawyers who suspect that there is something very wrong with the nature and direction of their profession, law students who anticipate becoming part of that profession, and those readers concerned with the status of the American legal system.


Against the Law is a sometimes playful, sometimes pungent polemic about the state of legal theory today. Three authors from different parts of the political spectrum come together in this book to attack contemporary legal scholarship’s complacency, idolatry, and insipidness. Against the Law is not against the law; just the ways law professors imagine it.” — J. M. Balkin, Yale Law School

Against the Law is must reading, especially for those who believe that Law does or can embody Reason and Morality. Campos, Schlag, and Smith, ever the iconoclasts, raise profound questions about both the truth of these claims and their meaning. All legal theorists will benefit from the encounter with this highly intelligent, quite original, and unflinchingly skeptical work.” — Larry Alexander, University of San Diego School of Law


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