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Total Justice

Lawrence M. Friedman

Publication Year: 1985

It is a widely held belief today that there are too many lawsuits, too many lawyers, too much law. As readers of this engaging and provocative essay will discover, the evidence for a "litigation explosion" is actually quite ambiguous. But the American legal profession has become extremely large, and it seems clear that the scope and reach of legal process have indeed increased greatly. How can we best understand these changes? Lawrence Friedman focuses on transformations in American legal culture—that is, people's beliefs and expectations with regard to law. In the early nineteenth century, people were accustomed to facing sudden disasters (disease, accidents, joblessness) without the protection of social and private insurance. The uncertainty of life and the unavailability of compensation for loss were mirrored in a culture of low legal expectations. Medical, technical, and social developments during our own century have created a very different set of expectations about life, again reflected in our legal culture. Friedman argues that we are moving toward a general expectation of total justice, of recompense for all injuries and losses that are not the victim's fault. And the expansion of legal rights and protections in turn creates fresh expectations, a cycle of demand and response. This timely and important book articulates clearly, and in nontechnical language, the recent changes that many have sensed in the American legal system but that few have discussed in so powerful and sensible a way.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

Total Justice was an attempt to explore and explain American legal culture. When I wrote this short book, the air was filled with shouts and complaints about how litigious we were in the United States. The same shouts and complaints can still be heard. I was then and am...


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pp. ix-x

Part 1

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pp. 1-2

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1. The Problem Stated

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pp. 3-5

One of the most striking aspects of American society, to natives and foreigners alike, is the way law and the legal system seem to dominate public life-and, apparently, much private life as well. There are, as we shall see, an extraordinary number of lawyers...

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2. The Law: Creatues from Inner Space

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pp. 6-37

In a cheap horror movie that was popular a while back, the world was invaded by some sort of living goo from outer space that spread relentlessly, gobbling up absolutely everything in its path. Some of the cries of alarm about the American legal...

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3. The Birth of a Modern Legal Culture

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pp. 38-44

The central proposition of this book is that social change leads to changes in legal culture, which in turn produce legal change. What has happened, in the last century or so, to American legal culture?...

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4. The Security State

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pp. 45-79

As we mentioned, the most striking aspect of the modern state is its overwhelming size. Government is big in every dimension: it has the most money income; it spends the most; it has the most people on its payroll. Modern states handle immense amounts...

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5. Due Process Revolution

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pp. 80-94

It is hard to give an exact definition of the legal changes that go under the general phrase, the "due process revolution." They consist at least in part of a vast expansion of procedural rights. "Due process" is, of course, a fundamental constitutional principle...

Part 2

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pp. 95-96

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6. American Legal Character

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pp. 97-125

The first part of this book discussed changes taking place in American legal culture, and connected those changes with developments in the legal system and in the texture of the law. "Legal culture" refers to public attitudes, norms, values, and ideas about...

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7. Sexual Behavior and the Law: A Case in Point

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pp. 126-146

Earlier chapters tried to trace changes in American legal culture over the past hundred years or so, moving toward a cluster of principles summed up in the phrase "total justice." This chapter will look at a specific area of law: control of sexual behavior. This will serve as an illustration of some of the themes of this...

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8. An Assessment

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pp. 147-152

The argument of this book is that legal culture and legal character have been moving in a single direction, toward what I have called total justice. Total justice is a social norm; it is also, more and more, a working principle transforming legal and social...

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9. Epilogue: A Note on the Wide, Wide World

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pp. 153-156

This was a monograph about changes in American law and American legal culture. Examples came from the history of this country and its experience, with only a few exceptions. A reader is bound to ask: are these changes peculiar to the United States, or are...


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pp. 157-158


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pp. 159-165

E-ISBN-13: 9781610442305
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871542977
Print-ISBN-10: 0871542978

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 1985