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Revered as the "People's Attorney," Louis D. Brandeis concluded a distinguished career by serving as an associate justice (1916-1939) of the U.S. Supreme Court. Philippa Strum argues that Brandeis—long recognized as a brilliant legal thinker and defender of traditional civil liberties—was also an important political theorist whose thought has become particularly relevant to the present moment in American politics.
“A superb work. Required reading for all who would better understand the role of Brandeis in the making of modern America.”
“[Strum’s] study very effectively utilizes original sources, including the extensive correspondence of Brandeis, to depict the gradual maturation of a political spokesman whose ideas never quite found comfort with the dominant political discourses of his age.”
—The Review of Politics
"Strum has created an insightful study of the thinking and accomplishments of a jurist whose impact on America's economic structure has been felt and will continue to be felt far into the future."—See all reviews...
“Strum’s book provides scholars and students of Brandeis and of the progressive and New Deal eras with a provocative thesis. She effectively illustrates how Brandeis's quest for individual development can be identified with the radicalism embedded within the Jeffersonian tradition of political thought.”
—Law and History Review
“Strum sees Brandeis as going “beyond progressivism” in his embrace of industrial democracy, worker ownership, and a new social contract. The chief virtue of her book is a careful delineation of his important ideas and their likely origins.”
—Journal of American History
“If there are any who doubt that Louis Brandeis is one of the truly great Americans of this century, let them read this book. Strum has brilliantly explicated Brandeis’s ideas to show their applicability not only to his times, but to ours as well.”
—Melvin I. Urofsky, author of A March of Liberty and coeditor (with David W. Levy) of Half Brother, Half Son: The Letters of Louis D. Brandeis to Felix Frankfurter
“Strum has mastered virtually all of the relevant materials relating to the thought of this central figure. She has combined these materials with her own marvelous insight and penetrating intelligence. As an exposition of the evolution of Brandeis’s ideas, there is nothing else in print that even comes close to equaling this book.”
—David W. Levy, author of The Life and Thought of Herbert Croly
“The most practical and sophisticated of all American judges has been Louis Brandeis. This gem of a book is the best short study of the totality of his life, thought, and work, on and off the bench.”
—Norman Dorsen, professor of law, New York University, and President, American Civil Liberties Union 1976–1991
“Philippa Strum has here produced a wonderful, readable, and politically meaningful discussion of the ideas of one of America's great thinkers on issues of politics and economics—and on the interrelation of politics and economics.”
—H. N. Hirsch, author of The Enigma of Felix Frankfurter and A Theory of Liberty: The Constitution and Minorities
“Concise and insightful. Strum shows how Brandeis’s ideas about industrial organization, Zionism, and the rights and duties of citizenship derived from his experiences as a lawyer, and why we should locate Brandeis in the tradition of American pragmatism.”
—Mark Tushnet, author of Red, White, and Blue: A Critical Analysis of Constitutional LawSee fewer reviews...
Brandeis, Strum shows, was appalled by the suffering and waste of human potential brought on by industrialization, poverty, and a government increasingly out of touch with its citizens. In response, he developed a unique vision of a "worker's democracy" based on an economically independent and well-educated citizenry actively engaged in defining its own political destiny. She also demonstrates that, while Brandeis's thinking formed the basis of Woodrow Wilson's "New Freedom," it went well beyond Wilsonian Progressivism in its call for smaller governmental and economic units such as worker-owned businesses and consumer cooperatives.
Brandeis's political thought, Strum suggests, is especially relevant to current debates over how large a role government should play in resolving everything from unemployment and homelessness to the crisis in health care. One of the few justices to support Roosevelt's New Deal policies in the 1930s, he nevertheless consistently criticized concentrated power in government (and in corporations). He agreed that the government should provide its citizens with some sort of "safety net," but at the same time should empower people to find private solutions to their needs.
A half century later, Brandeis's political thought has much to offer anyone engaged in the current debates pitting individualists against communitarians and rights advocates against social welfare critics.