Radical Critiques of the Law

Edited by Stephen M. Griffin and Robert C. L. Moffat

The past two decades have seen an outpouring of work in legal theory that is self-consciously critical of aspects of American law and the institutions of the liberal state. In this lively volume, eminent scholars in philosophy, law, and political science respond to this recent scholarship by exploring what constitutes a "radical" critique of the law, examining such theories as critical legal studies, feminist theory and theories of "difference," and critical race theory.

The authors consider whether the critiques advanced in recent legal theory can truly be called radical and what form a radical critique of American law should take. Writing at the cutting edge of the critique of critical legal theory, they offer insights first on critical legal scholarship, then on feminist political and legal theory. A third group of contributions questions the radicalness of these approaches in light of their failure to challenge fundamental aspects of liberalism, while a final section focuses on current issues of legal reform through critical views on criminal punishment, including observations on rape and hate speech.

“The interaction between the authors is refreshingly direct, and many of them offer analyses of their subject matter that are thoughtful, interesting, and novel.


“This book provides an exceptionally useful introduction to the leading ideas in critical legal studies, feminist legal theory, and critical race theory. It is at least three books in one. Philosophers of law, feminist theorists, and reflective practitioners of the law will find in this powerful anthology the kind of conceptual tools they need to radically deconstruct traditional Anglo-American law.”

—Rosemarie Tong, author of Feminist Philosophies

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Each major essay describes the underlying principles in the development of a radical legal theory and addresses unresolved questions relating to it, while accompanying commentaries present conflicting views. The resulting dialogue explores wide-ranging issues like equity, value relativism, adversarial and empathic legal advocacy, communitarianism and the social contract, impartiality and contingency, "natural" law, and corrective justice. A common thread for many of the articles is a focus on the social dimension of society and law, which finds the individualism of prevailing liberal theories too limiting.

Radical Critiques of the Law is particularly unique in presenting critical and feminist approaches in one volume-along with skeptical commentary about just how radical some critiques really are. Proposing alternative critiques that embody considerably greater promise of being truly radical, it offers provocative reading for both philosophers and legal scholars by showing that many claims to radicalism are highly problematic at best.

About the Author

Stephen M. Griffin is professor of law at Tulane University and author of American Constitutionalism: From Theory to Politics. Robert C.L. Moffat is professor of Law at the University of Florida and Executive Director of AMINTAPHIL.