LAW 456

The History of American Legal Thought

Law & Philosophy

This course is on the history of American legal thought and jurisprudence from the late 19th century to the present. We will discuss the various schools of American legal philosophy and their historical contexts through a close reading of primary sources supplemented by secondary sources and course lectures. In the past century, American legal philosophy has witnessed robust debates with significant implications for U.S. law and politics. The prevailing theories of law and jurisprudence have undergone dramatic changes due to a variety of intellectual, political, and sociological factors. Students will engage the intellectual dynamics and coherence of various legal philosophies, including: legal formalism, legal realism, the legal process school, the law and economics movement, critical legal studies, and critical race studies. Students will come to have a deeper understanding of the nature of legal thought and how different aspects of legal philosophy seem to be of universal significance while others appear to be implicated in the vagaries of particular cultural dynamics.

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