68 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2013 Last revised: 15 Aug 2015
Date Written: April 2, 2013
This paper examines the influence of capitalist ideology on American legal thought. I argue that the influence of this ideology results in a general tendency of the US legal system to favor materialist and individualist values over non-materialist and collective ones. The paper shows this tendency in diverse fields of law, including the doctrine of standing, the defamation tort, regulation of racist speech and pornography, judicial review of affirmative action programs, and media regulation. While capitalism is traditionally associated with freedom, this paper aims to show that capitalist ideology actually favors a rather narrow vision of freedom. Inspired by this vision, the US legal system most readily secures individuals' freedom to pursue their own pecuniary gain. The freedom to pursue one's non-pecuniary and collective interests — such as a clean environment, the humane treatment of animals, or social equality — often has deficient legal recognition. Applying insights from the philosophical theories of Hannah Arendt and Joseph Raz, I argue that those legally disregarded aspects of freedom are actually the most crucial ones. Therefore, the hegemony of capitalist values in the US legal system creates a serious threat to the freedom of citizens.
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