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The Transformation of American Law, 1870-1960: The Crisis of Legal Orthodoxy (Oxford Paperbacks) [Paperback]

Morton J. Horwitz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1992 0195092597 978-0195092592
When the first volume of Morton Horwitz's monumental history of American law appeared in 1977, it was universally acclaimed as one of the most significant works ever published in American legal history. The New Republic called it an "extremely valuable book." Library Journal praised it as "brilliant" and "convincing." And Eric Foner, in The New York Review of Books, wrote that "the issues it raises are indispensable for understanding nineteenth-century America." It won the coveted Bancroft Prize in American History and has since become the standard source on American law for the period between 1780 and 1860. Now, Horwitz presents The Transformation of American Law, 1870 to 1960, the long-awaited sequel that brings his sweeping history to completion.
In his pathbreaking first volume, Horwitz showed how economic conflicts helped transform law in antebellum America. Here, Horwitz picks up where he left off, tracing the struggle in American law between the entrenched legal orthodoxy and the Progressive movement, which arose in response to ever-increasing social and economic inequality. Horwitz introduces us to the people and events that fueled this contest between the Old Order and the New. We sit in on Lochner v. New York in 1905--where the new thinkers sought to undermine orthodox claims for the autonomy of law--and watch as Progressive thought first crystallized. We meet Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and recognize the influence of his incisive ideas on the transformation of law in America. We witness the culmination of the Progressive challenge to orthodoxy with the emergence of Legal Realism in the 1920s and '30s, a movement closely allied with other intellectual trends of the day. And as postwar events unfold--the rise of totalitarianism abroad, the McCarthyism rampant in our own country, the astonishingly hostile academic reaction to Brown v. Board of Education--we come to understand that, rather than self-destructing as some historians have asserted, the Progressive movement was alive and well and forming the roots of the legal debates that still confront us today.
The Progressive legacy that this volume brings to life is an enduring one, one which continues to speak to us eloquently across nearly a century of American life. In telling its story, Horwitz strikes a balance between a traditional interpretation of history on the one hand, and an approach informed by the latest historical theory on the other. Indeed, Horwitz's rich view of American history--as seen from a variety of perspectives--is undertaken in the same spirit as the Progressive attacks on an orthodoxy that believed law an objective, neutral entity.
The Transformation of American Law is a book certain to revise past thinking on the origins and evolution of law in our country. For anyone hoping to understand the structure of American law--or of America itself--this volume is indispensable.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

For anyone seriously interested in studying American legal history, this insightful and persuasive account of the development of American law from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century is required reading. Comparing and contrasting Progressive Legal Thought with its predecessor, Classical Legal Thought, Horwitz clearly proves the impossibility of understanding the development of the American legal system separate from the broader cultural context, domestically and internationally. Building on his equally impressive earlier volume ( The Transformation of American Law , 1780-1860 , LJ 2/15/77), Horwitz provides lucid and challenging material on critical figures and events in the evolution of American law, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Lochner decision, and Critical Legal Studies. Not everyone will agree with some of the conclusions, but this excellent work cannot be ignored. Especially recommended for upper-level graduate libraries.
- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

In an important and long-awaited sequel to his classic Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (1977), Horwitz tells how the Progressive movement--a program for political and economic as well as legal reform--transformed American legal thought from a search for impartial norms into a discipline that acknowledged the elasticity of its own rules and that borrowed the methodologies and some of the values of the social sciences. Horwitz describes the Progressive movement (and its progeny, the Legal Realism movement of the 1920's and 1930's) as an assault on ``classical legal thought''--the view that the law constitutes an impartial body of rules administered by neutral arbiters. The author argues that centralization of the American economy--with the accompanying problems of urbanization, immigration, industrialism, and polarization of economic classes--led to a gradual reexamination of classical legal thought, particularly the bias in legal orthodoxy against redistribution of wealth. Horwitz describes how economic and, ultimately, social changes brought about by WW I put irresistible pressure on courts and legal scholars to bring jurisprudential thought into closer touch with America's rapidly changing society. But, Horwitz explains, it was the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Lochner v. New York (1905)--which invalidated a maximum-hours law for bakers on the grounds that it unconstitutionally interfered with the freedom of contract--that truly catalyzed the attacks of Progressive legal scholars on the claim that law was a politically neutral science. Through a discussion of the evolution of thought in specialized legal fields and problems, and by offering short sketches about the thought of influential figures of the period like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Legal Realists Karl Llewellyn and Jerome Frank, Horwitz demonstrates that the effect of the new thinking on American law was pervasive and lasting. Finally, he argues persuasively that the Legal Realist tradition has had an extensive effect on the development of American law in the post-WW II period. An excellent and significant reexamination of the work and impact of the Progressive and Realist legal thinkers. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 361 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195092597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195092592
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An In Depth and Fair Look at Modern Legal History November 9, 2000
By Cory
Format:Paperback
This book is a masterpiece of modern legal history, effectively covering the fall of classicism and the rise and decline of progressivism in legal thought. This second in his series on the American Law is much less controversial than the first, and lends much to the in-depth scrutiny of the individuals behind progressivism in the period surrounding World Wars I and II. This is a must read for any law student with an interest in the foundations of what they learn every day.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular January 28, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This is the only one of the two volumes that I read, so I can't vouch for the other. But this volume is epic. Horowitz does a wonderful job of bringing together the social, intellectual, and political undercurrents that drove the formation and transformation of American law through the late 19th and 20th centuries.

I read this book between my second and third years of law school, and I found that it provided something that is missing from the standard law curriculum: a historic arc. What I learned from Horowitz helped me to illuminate all the subjects I approached in my third year. It helped me to understand where many legal concepts came from, to see the theoretical and historic arc along which they traveled, and to better understand the basis and bias of contemporary legal discourse.

Horowitz puts across with clarity and coherence the origins of today's legal debates. I strongly recommend his book to anyone that is hoping for a more full understanding of the modern legal landscape.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but Heavy February 16, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Historical treatise, which could be made "lighter" and clearer by better organization. Some passages are excellent, but there is a lot of fluff throughout...
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