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Adversarial Legalism

Adversarial Legalism

The American Way of Law, Second Edition

Robert A. Kagan

ISBN 9780674238367

Publication date: 10/08/2019

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In the first edition of this groundbreaking book, Robert Kagan explained why America is much more adversarial—likely to rely on legal threats and lawsuits—than other economically advanced countries, with more prescriptive laws, more costly adjudications, and more severe penalties. This updated edition also addresses the rise of the conservative legal movement and anti-statism in the Republican party, which have put in sharp relief the virtues of adversarial legalism in its ability to empower citizens, lawyers, and judges to mount challenges to the arbitrary or unlawful exercise of government authority.

“This is a wonderful piece of work, richly detailed and beautifully written. It is the best, sanest, and most comprehensive evaluation and critique of the American way of law that I have seen. Every serious scholar concerned with justice and efficiency, and every policymaker who is serious about improving the American legal order, should read this trenchant and exciting book.”
—Lawrence Friedman, Stanford University

“A tour de force. It is an elegantly written, consistently insightful analysis and critique of the American emphasis on litigation and punitive sanctions in the policy and administrative process.”
—Charles R. Epp, Law and Society Review


  • Like the first edition, it is a brilliant and thoughtful account of the way the legal system of the United States works, based on a rich and varied storehouse of research.

    —Lawrence M. Friedman, Law & Social Inquiry


  • Robert A. Kagan is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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