on December 14, 2000
To understand this brief book requires some impression to the origin of the author, Brazil. Unger comes from a upper-middle class Brazilian family of politicians. In this gigantic and once colonized state, economic and social problems are never too few, especially the great gap between the priviledged and the under- priviledged. Various programs, reformative or revolutionary, hence appear in the political market one after another.
Among the competition, Unger stands on the "left" side if we have to label it. Unlike some stereotypes of "left", Unger proposes in this book his political experimentalism. This idea aims at expelling the superstition of Great Institutions, such as traditional legal systems of property, contract and torts, and typical British or American political frameworks. The proposal points out the problem that "developping countries" naively count on transplantation of those institutions but are unable to see positive outcomes. What's worse, these countries are simply repeating what the west Europe and the United States have undergone in the 19th century.
As a scholar of law, Unger urges the legal analysis to be a medium leading to reflections of more profound social reforms. It should more closely observe the present institutions, and concretely develop new setout. For the readers in "developping countries", where battles of diverse political ideas never stop, Unger's advice can be a valuable option. Whereas for those in "developped countries", Unger offers a perspective other than self-centrism.
Another remark: comparison of Roberto Unger's ideas and those of "New Left" in UK and Germany can be very interesting. We can roughly categorize both of them as "left", but more nuances lie behind.