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The Constitution of Interests

Beyond the Politics of Rights

John Brigham

Publication Year: 1996

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. iv-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xiv

The Constitution of Interests sets forth a theory of law, rhetoric, and movement politics and applies it to various instances when Americans have organized in the shadow of the law. The interests developed in the following chapters concern gay rights, realism in the legal academy, the remedial response to law called "informalism," and the radical feminist...

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Chapter 1 Legal Forms: Toward a Constitutive Theory

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pp. 1-27

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 the Mayflower was the basis for their short-lived community at Plymouth. Legal routines and a special language established the form in which Americans declared their...

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Chapter 2 Rights to Profligacy?: Sex and AIDS, the Early Years

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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....

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Chapter 3 Professions of Realism: An Institutional Form

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pp. 51-75

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, and Faces 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...

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Chapter 4 Remedial Law: The Ideology of Informalism

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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...

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Chapter 5 Radical Legal Consciousness: Sex and Rage

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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...

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Chapter 6 The Constitution of Interests: Rethinking Legalism

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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,...


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pp. 155-195


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pp. 197-217


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pp. 219-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780814723494
E-ISBN-10: 0814723497
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814712856
Print-ISBN-10: 0814712851

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 1996

OCLC Number: 45844068
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Constitution of Interests

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Jurisprudence -- United States.
  • Civil rights -- United States.
  • Law -- United States -- Philosophy.
  • Law -- Political aspects.
  • Sex and law -- United States.
  • Law -- United States.
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