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American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism

The Worker, the Family, and the State

Ruth Colker

Publication Year: 1998

Since the fall of communism, laissez-faire capitalism has experienced renewed popularity. Flush with victory, the United States has embraced a particularly narrow and single-minded definition of capitalism and aggressively exported it worldwide. The defining trait of this brand of capitalism is an unwavering reverence for the icons of the market. Although promoted as a laissez-faire form of capitalism, it actually reflects the very evils of selfishness and greed by entrepreneurs that concerned Adam Smith.

Capitalism, however, can thrive without an extreme emphasis on efficiency and personal autonomy. Americans often forget that theirs is a rather peculiar form of capitalism, that other Western nations successfully maintain capitalistic systems that are fundamentally more balanced and nuanced in their effect on society. The unnecessarily inhumane aspects of American capitalism become apparent when compared to Canadian and Western European societies, with their more generous policies regarding affirmative action, accommodation for disabled persons, and family and medical leave for pregnant woman and their partners.

In American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism, Ruth Colker examines how American law purports to reflect--and actively promotes--a laissez-faire capitalism that disproportionately benefits the entrepreneurial class. Colker proposes that the quality of American life depends also on fairness and equality rather than simply the single-minded and formulaic pursuit of efficiency and utility.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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p. VII

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pp. IX-XI

The idea for this book began to develop in the fall of 1988 when I visited the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Like most Americans, I knew very little about Canadian law and society. I did not expect Canada’s legal regime to differ much from ours, and I did expect its legal system to reflect a respect for our two hundred years ...

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The problem with writing acknowledgements is that one is bound to forget to thank lots of people who were of tremendous assistance. Casual conversations with colleagues at conferences, brief conversations in the halls of the law school, insightful comments from seminar students, and help in the library from whoever was at the reference desk ...

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pp. 1-26

Isabelle Dumont, a legal immigrant to the United States from Haiti, works for the Bayer family. In return for taking care of their children while they are at work each day (from at least 8 A.M. until 6 P.M.), she is paid $250 per week. When the family goes on vacation, she has her own (unpaid) vacation. Because she is not a U.S. citizen, ...

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pp. 27-61

In the eighteenth century, upper-class Boston families could send their nearly illiterate children to Harvard University.1 Until the 1920s, admission to elite institutions often was restricted to those males who could afford to pay the tuition and had taken courses generally only available in private schools such as Latin.2 Today, money continues ...

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pp. 62-99

Wall Street Journal columnist James Bovard ridiculed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by suggesting that claustrophobia and cocaine addiction are covered disabilities, invoking reasonable accommodation protection.1 He tells a story of a motorist attempting to use claustrophobia as a defense for a seatbelt violation but fails ...

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pp. 100-154

Kimberly Hern Troupe was employed as a saleswoman in the women’s accessories department at Lord & Taylor.1 She experienced extreme nausea while pregnant and frequently reported to work late or had to leave early. Although her employment record had been perfect before she became pregnant, she was fired the day before her maternity ...

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pp. 155-181

When Perry Watkins, an African American gay man, was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1967 during the Vietnam conflict, he had no idea that he would eventually have to bring a lawsuit to retain a position in the armed forces.1 Despite indicating on his preinduction physical form that he had “homosexual tendencies,” he was found qualified ...

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pp. 182-206

In the late 1980s, Michael Anthony Bullard worked for Bigelow Holding Company, a rental company in the state of Nevada.1 Bullard believed that the company had a rental policy of discriminating against African Americans. On one occasion, he feared that the company was planning to physically assault two black men who had entered ...

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pp. 207-220

Isabelle’s daughter, Medina, attended the local college whose in-state tuition she could afford to pay. Eventually she enrolled in law school and graduated with honors. She decided to seek a clerkship so that she could someday enter the legal academy. Hearing that there was an opening in the local state court judge’s chambers, ...


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pp. 221-244


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pp. 245-250

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p. 251

Ruth Colker is the Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University College of Law and author, most recently, of Hybrid: Bisexuals, Multiracials, and Other Misfits under American Law.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790175
E-ISBN-10: 0814790178
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814715628
Print-ISBN-10: 0814715621

Page Count: 251
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 47011661
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism

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Subject Headings

  • Sociological jurisprudence.
  • Law and economics.
  • Capitalism -- United States.
  • Labor laws and legislation -- United States.
  • Critical legal studies -- United States.
  • Discrimination in employment -- Law and legislation -- United States.
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