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The Constitution of Interests: Beyond the Politics of Rights

John Brigham
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    The Constitution of Interests
    Book Description:

    Many of America's most important social and political movements--abolition, women's suffragette, civil rights, women's liberation, gay and lesbian rights--have organized in the shadow of the law. All are based in their theoretical opposition to the law. Yet at the same time, they are dependent on the laws that prohibit them. Law is thus formed as much through the dynamic tensions that govern how these laws are received as through their official decree. Legal forms such as contracts, property, and rights also constitute social and political life because they structure our world. John Brigham here focuses on four ideological movements and their strategies, among them the struggle over the closing of gay bathhouses in the early years of the AIDS crisis and the radical feminist use of rage and radical consciousness in anti- pornography campaigns. The effect of law on politics, Brigham convincingly reveals, is pervasive precisely because political life finds its expression in a surprising variety of legal forms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2349-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 Legal Forms: Toward a Constitutive Theory
    (pp. 1-28)

    Distinctive legal forms have defined various interests in American history. A constitutional confederacy bound the Six Nations of the Iroquois. The compact drawn up by the Pilgrims on theMayflowerwas the basis for their short-lived community at Plymouth. Legal routines and a special language established the form in which Americans declared their independence from Britain. The Civil War transformed the nature of property and consequently gave new meaning to citizenship for all Americans. In the early twentieth century, conservatives cloaked their interests as fundamental law. The response from New Deal liberals was to displace the old text with more...

  5. Chapter 2 Rights to Profligacy? Sex and AIDS, the Early Years
    (pp. 29-50)

    Rights demand a response from people in authority. As an artifact of the law, they claim an obligation from government generally and usually litigation processes in particular. yet rights also signal a vulnerable community turning to law, often simply in the hope of surviving. Americans, at least those of the recent past, have heralded rights. From Clarence Earl Gideon, a smalltime crook in Florida who claimed to have a right to an attorney, to contemporary AIDS activists, rights have demanded that people respond.¹ When George Whitmore, an author who died of AIDS in 1989, was refused service at a Greenwich...

  6. Chapter 3 Professions of Realism: An Institutional Form
    (pp. 51-76)

    In the late spring of 1990, Derrick Bell—a professor at Harvard Law School, the distinguished author of “The Civil Rights Chronicles”And We Are Not Saved,andFaces at the Bottom of the Well,and former dean of the University of Oregon Law School—announced that he would turn down his salary in protest over Harvard’s failure to hire a black woman in a tenured position at the law school. Bell’s salary, considerable in comparison to most Americans, and the prestige of his position made his sacrifice significant. But the publicity occasioned by this event was also a consequence...

  7. Chapter 4 Remedial Law: The Ideology of Informalism
    (pp. 77-102)

    A desire for peace, for conciliation—a remedial urge—this is the social consequence of informalism, the “alternative” to law that has been such a preoccupation around the legal profession since it surfaced in the 1970s. For the last twenty-five years, the remedial orientation, as informalism, spawned a new profession with associations, conferences, and careers. Groups such as the Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR) and the National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution offered the opportunity for growth in a professional direction following the activism of the 1960s. Informalists built centers, like the National Institute for Dispute Resolution...

  8. Chapter 5 Radical Legal Consciousness: Sex and Rage
    (pp. 103-128)

    Coming from England to America in the seventeenth century must have taken considerable motivation, but the men and women who made the voyage could stand to live with their countrymen no longer. These were intense people, perhaps even angry people. However, their anger must have been largely focused on religious institutions because the political and legal institutions they set up in America drew much from their English experience. The laws of England, the courts, and the lawyers came to dominate the New World. They would also become the subject of resistance. From imperial expansion against Native Americans, through the struggles...

  9. Chapter 6 The Constitution of Interests: Rethinking Legalism
    (pp. 129-154)

    Americans often look too hard for law, and, consequently, we tend to look past it. We expect laws to be tucked away in the inner offices of law firms, in difficult-to-access law libraries, or in obscure professional practices. But law also hides beneath our noses, in social and cultural practices. This law that we don't notice is powerful. As part of the landscape, legal practices determine whose field the farmer plows—his own or that of another—or, just as inconspicuously, mark the boundaries of suburban plots and urban buildings. This legal landscape features zones of pornography, where the movie...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 155-196)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-218)
  12. Index
    (pp. 219-224)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)