Law and Norms in Left-Wing Novels of the U.S. Mid-Twentieth Century
48 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2007
Date Written: November 12, 2007
Each of the major law-based structuring or ordering systems of society - markets, regulation, litigation, and democracy - should work as a path to a good and just society. However, the scholarship of the last half of the 20th century establishes that none work the way they should; each is blocked by a wall with doors locked to working people. In such circumstances most people either make an everyday life for themselves through consumption, especially of small systems that do work, like DVDs and microwave ovens; or lose themselves in big ideological fundamentalisms, like religion and tribalism. Some few look for a key to open the door; fewer determine to scale the wall; fewer still to knock them down.
The University of Illinois has recently reissued 12 novels in a series entitled The Radical Novel Reconsidered, edited by Alan Wald of the University of Michigan. This paper will briefly summarize the fictional situation in which protagonists find themselves in each novel. It will look at the law as it is represented in the books. How is it perceived by the characters? Does it help or hinder them in their pursuit of the good life? What are its functions? Is the law autonomous or is it dependent on or determined by other social, cultural, or economic forces?
Keywords: radical, left-wing, novels, law, norms
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