In re Radical Interpretations of American Law: The Relation of Law and History

This Article centers instead upon assessing two types of legal analysis – non-Marxist radical interpretation and “non-reductionist” Marxist theory – which, despite conspicuous differences, share the belief that understanding the American historical experience is a prerequisite to understanding American law. Both approaches also share two other important convictions. One is that a “consensual” or “liberal pluralist” version of American history has little explanatory validity, at least in regard to such major problems as the political and legal breakdown represented by the Civil War, and the law’s role in American economic development. They also agree that historical explanations which downplay discussion of economic forces in the law’s evolution are explanations which downplay truth. These common convictions cause me to group these two approaches, despite their deep-seated differences, as “radical interpretations of American law.”