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Architect of Justice: Felix S. Cohen and the Founding of American Legal Pluralism Hardcover – March 22, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (March 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801439566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801439568
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Dalia Tsuk Mitchell has produced a work of impressive legal scholarship."—New York Law Journal

"Outside a small circle of lawyers and legal scholars, Felix Cohen is virtually unknown. This ought to change and will after Dalia Tsuk Mitchell's masterful book. Cohen was a major figure among legal and political scholars in the first half of the twentieth century. Mitchell does a superb job of recovering his legacy, which has direct implications for some of the most urgent questions in political and legal theory today. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in legal and political theory."—Gregory S. Alexander, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Cornell University

"A brilliant student of philosophy, a skeptic about the utility of legal rules, and a Socialist who nonetheless was a firm believer in the American democratic faith, Felix S. Cohen came into the federal government in the early New Deal for short-term service in the Department of the Interior. He ended up spending fifteen years in the service of justice for American Indian tribes in this most unlikely of settings—the federal department oriented toward controlling tribes rather than allowing them self-determination. Architect of Justice, the first comprehensive study of Cohen, is a major achievement along several dimensions. It is a thoughtful intellectual history of one of law's most intelligent and intriguing thinkers—a pillar of the legal realism movement whose scholarship is still important today. It is also a case study in how a brilliant man trained in legal theory attempted to put his ideas into action to promote justice for American Indians, Jews seeking to escape Nazi horror, and other subordinated people. And it is also an incredibly rich analysis of how Cohen took the amorphous treaties, statutes, historical (mis)understandings, and the like that involved federal relations with Indian tribes and literally constructed a new, coherent field of law, federal Indian law. Students of law, federal-tribal relations, New Deal history, and American political theory will find much to learn in these pages."—Philip P. Frickey, Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley

"Dalia Tsuk Mitchell's brilliant intellectual biography shows how Felix S. Cohen's commitment to pluralism linked his seminal contributions to legal realism and federal Indian law. Cohen's philosophical, ethical, political, and legal theories enabled him to systematize and reimagine federal Indian law in a manner that respected tribal sovereignty and culture. This biography is not only a gripping story but also reveals surprising truths about the vast legal, political, and philosophical changes experienced during the middle years of the twentieth century."—Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

"Architect of Justice is a masterful intellectual biography full of discoveries and keen analysis illuminating many of the most intractable problems of today. The book will be a must-read for many people, and a delight for many more."—Aviam Soifer, Dean and Professor, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i

"Felix S. Cohen's life and work were dedicated to theorizing how group rights—especially those of Native Americans'should be protected. Cohen's achievements included not only his work on behalf of Indian tribes but also his arguments for justice in all corners of society and for all peoples. Dalia Tsuk Mitchell's ability to bring this extraordinary commitment to justice to life is an enormous contribution to our understanding of progressive thought in the middle decades of the twentieth century."—Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

From the Back Cover

"Dalia Tsuk Mitchell's brilliant intellectual biography shows how Felix S. Cohen's commitment to pluralism linked his seminal contributions to legal realism and federal Indian law. Cohen's philosophical, ethical, political, and legal theories enabled him to systematize and reimagine federal Indian law in a manner that respected tribal sovereignty and culture. This biography is not only a gripping story but also reveals surprising truths about the vast legal, political, and philosophical changes experienced during the middle years of the twentieth century."--Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"A brilliant student of philosophy, a skeptic about the utility of legal rules, and a Socialist who nonetheless was a firm believer in the American democratic faith, Felix S. Cohen came into the federal government in the early New Deal for short-term service in the Department of the Interior. He ended up spending fifteen years in the service of justice for American Indian tribes in this most unlikely of settings - the federal department oriented toward controlling tribes rather than allowing them self-determination. Architect of Justice, the first comprehensive study of Cohen, is a major achievement along several dimensions. It is a thoughtful intellectual history of one of law's most intelligent and intriguing thinkers - a pillar of the legal realism movement whose scholarship is still important today. It is also a case study in how a brilliant man trained in legal theory attempted to put his ideas into action to promote justice for American Indians, Jews seeking to escape Nazi horror, and other subordinated people. And it is also an incredibly rich analysis of how Cohen took the amorphous treaties, statutes, historical (mis)understandings, and the like that involved federal relations with Indian tribes and literally constructed a new, coherent field of law, federal Indian law. Students of law, federal-tribal relations, New Deal history, and American political theory will find much to learn in these pages."--Philip P. Frickey, Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric on November 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Tsuk Mitchell's remarkable achievement melds political theory, law, philosophy, and our legal treatment of Native Americans into a wonderfully rich and sensitive intellectual biography of one of the last century's leading legal thinkers who, really quite by accident, also became the creator of modern American Indian law. She skillfully and subtly integrates the deep ideas underlying Cohen's different fields of interest and achievement and his early life influences into a coherent theory of legal pluralism as she analyzes, for the first time, his experiences as a second-generation Jewish immigrant, his education at the hands of leading philosophers and law teachers, his relationship with his father who was one of America's leading philosophers, and what he learned while working at the Department of the Interior during the New Deal.

This book is a terrific and enlightening read on its own. It is also, perhaps, the best account of the philosophy underlying our contemporary legal treatment of Native Americans. More than that, the book provides the reader with an alternative legal vision of communal life in an America characterized by great diversity, a vision that had real currency during the first half of the 20th century until it was eclipsed by individualism as our reigning mode of legal thought and action.

The story of Cohen's striving for justice for all, his successes, and his failures, provide important original insights into the development of modern America. Anybody interested in the way American values of acceptance, tolerance, and community can be integrated into a liberal democratic society will find this book must-reading.

Cohen was a man who deserved a biography, and in Tsuk Mitchell he got the biographer he deserved. The American Historical Association certainly knew what it was doing when it awarded this book its prestigious Littleton-Griswold Prize in 2007.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a major work of intellectual biography written by an associate professor of law at George Washington University here in Washington, D.C. The subject is a real giant in the field of American jurisprudence (and other areas as well) about whom we hear relatively little these days despite his many lasting accomplishments: Felix S. Cohen (1907-1953). I originally read this book because of Cohen's role as an important legal realist during the 1930"s (e.g., "Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach"). I was pleasantly surprised to discover as I read this fine book that this was but one facet of his multi-dimensional activities and contributions.

Because the book is as rich as its subject, it is impossible to touch upon many points in a short review. The key focus of the author is to discuss Cohen and the development of his concepts of pluralism, group autonomy and group power, and how Cohen saw this dimension of American political (and legal) life as a source of important empirically-based values. The book effectively sketches Cohen's early life (and his relationship to his father Morris R. Cohen, the important CCNY philosopher). There is a helpful discussion of Cohen's first book, "Ethical Systems and Legal Ideas." Out of Columbia law, and not wanting to be a full-time academic, Cohen ended up (of all places) at the Department of the Interior where he remained a number of years. He got involved in Interior's role as trustee and administrator for the American Indians. It was within this context that Cohen worked out many of his key ideas about pluralism and decentralization, and he was deeply involved in the so-called "Indian New Deal" reform efforts.
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