In this imaginative exploration of modern legal culture, Lawrence Friedman addresses how the contemporary idea of individual rights has altered the legal systems and authority structures of Western societies. Every aspect of law, he argues--from civil rights to personal-injury litigation to divorce law--has been profoundly reshaped, reflecting the power of this concept.
The new individualism is quite different from that of the nineteenth century, which stressed self-control, discipline, and traditional group values. Modern individualism focuses on the individual as the starting and ending point of life and assumes a wide zone of choice. Choice is vital, fundamental: the right to develop oneself, to build up a life uniquely suited to oneself through free, open selection among forms, models, and lifestyles. With striking clarity and force, Friedman demonstrates how the new individualism results from changes in the technological and social framework of society. Loose, unconnected, free-floating, mobile: this is the modern individual, at least in comparison with the immediate past.
Written for the general reader as well as lawyers and legal scholars, The Republic of Choice offers keen and original observations about legal culture and the public consciousness that informs and expresses it.
Friedman’s book is a bold, imaginative, and carefully reasoned effort to describe the major characteristics of modern American law and its underlying social norms. Law, he urges, is not an autonomous discipline; it grows out of changing popular demands and values. How and why popular legal culture changed during the last century and a half is one important theme of this work.
This book synthesizes much that has been going on in American culture, both in general attitudes and more specifically with respect to law and legal culture. There are few legal scholars that have Friedman’s breadth of background across a vast range of legal issues, and this shows in the wide variety of materials and examples that are brought to bear in behalf of his central thesis. The central theme that we are becoming a ‘republic of choice’ is given a fresh and inviting statement, one that will surely provoke interest.
This is the first book that draws on the social research about law that has burgeoned in the last twenty years to produce a general interpretive characterization of contemporary American society. It is full of keen and original observations about the ‘legal culture’ and the public consciousness that informs and expresses it.
- 255 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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