Laying Down the Law
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Laying Down the Law

Mysticism, Fetishism, and the American Legal Mind

Pierre Schlag

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eBook - ePub

Laying Down the Law

Mysticism, Fetishism, and the American Legal Mind

Pierre Schlag

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About This Book

In the collected essays here, Schlag established himself as one of the most creative thinkers in the contemporary legal academy. To read them one after another is exhilarating; Schlag's sophistication shines through. In chapter after chapter he tackles the most vexing problems of law and legal thinking, but at the heart of his concern is the questions of normativity and the normative claims made by legal scholars. He revisits legal realism, eenergizes it, and brings readers face-to-face with the central issues confronting law at the end of the 20th century.
-- Choice, May 1997

Pierre Schlag is the great iconoclast of the American legal academy. Few law professors today are so consistently original, funny, and provocative. But behind his playful manner is a serious goal: bringing the study of law into the late modern/ postmodern age. Reading these essays is like watching a one-man truth squad taking on all of the trends and movements of contemporary jurisprudence. All one can say to the latter is, better take cover.
--J. M. Balkin, Lafayette S. Foster Professor, Yale Law School

At a time when complaints are heard everywhere about the excesses of lawyers, judges, and law itself, Pierre Schlag focuses attention on the American legal mind and its urge to lay down the law. For Schlag, legalism is a way of thinking that extends far beyond the customary official precincts of the law.

His work prompts us to move beyond the facile self- congratulatory self-representations of the law so that we might think critically about its identity, effects, and limitations. In this way, Schlag leads us to rethink the identities and character of moral and political values in contemporary discourse. The book brings into question the dominant normative orientation that shapes so much academic thought in law and in the humanities and social sciences. By pulling the curtain on the rhetorical techniques by which the law represents itself as coherent, rational, and stable, Laying Down the Law discloses the grandiose (and largely futile) attempts of American academics to control social and political meaning by means of scholarly missives.

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NYU Press


AALS, 19
ABA, 56
abstraction, 45
academic. See legal academic(s)
action/expression dichotomy, 120–21, 184–85
administrative welfare state, 149, 151
aesthetic(s), 51, 56, 68, 145, 150
capacity, development of, 58
criteria, 31
frame(s), 44, 55
inadequacy, 58
of judges, 72
legal, 4, 61, 151–52, 158
of legitimation, 151
presuppositions of, 175
social, 156–57, 175
spatial, 52, 65–66
teleological, 154
agents: autonomous, rational, 25
human, 24
ahistoricism, 44
amorality, 10, 24
animism, 20, 125
anti-intellectualism, 133–45
Aristotle, 5, 13
Austin, John Langshaw, 172, 184
authenticity, 10
balancing, 7
baseball, and theories of Stanley Fish, 107–13
Baudrillard, Jean, 172, 173
Beale, Joseph, 134
belief(s), 136
disjunctive, 7–9
systems, 27–28
Bergman, Ingmar, 127
Berkow, Ira, 107, 184
boredom, 26
Brandeis, Justice William, 90
bureaucrat, 149
bureaucratic institutions, 24–25, 34–35, 72, 128
and humanist subjects, 38–40
Burke, Kenneth, 174
Campos, Paul, 186, 187
category mistake, 6, 38, 42, 53
causation: linear, 140
Newtonian conceptions of, 7
civic republicanism, 22
civil society, 150
coercion, 32, 118, 141, 157
cognitive: organization, 150
states, 7
Collins, Ronald K. L., 174
Communism, 165
community, 7, 44–45, 136
as normative conception, 34
complexes: consent, 153
hierarchy, 153
justification, 153
legitimation, 153, 154
teleological, 154
conscience, 147, 187

Table of contents

Citation styles for Laying Down the Law
APA 6 Citation
Schlag, P. (1998). Laying Down the Law ([edition unavailable]). NYU Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 1998)
Chicago Citation
Schlag, Pierre. (1998) 1998. Laying Down the Law. [Edition unavailable]. NYU Press.
Harvard Citation
Schlag, P. (1998) Laying Down the Law. [edition unavailable]. NYU Press. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Schlag, Pierre. Laying Down the Law. [edition unavailable]. NYU Press, 1998. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.