The New Versus the Old Legal Realism: 'Things Ain't What They Used to Be'

40 Pages Posted: 25 May 2006

See all articles by Stewart Macaulay

Stewart Macaulay

University of Wisconsin Law School


Macaulay explores continuities and differences between the original realist movement and the recently-formulated New Legal Realism Project. Despite the common perception that the original realists were deeply committed to empirical research, Macaulay points out the relatively superficial character of their actual engagement with the social sciences. He traces the development of more sustained engagement with empirical research during the 1950s at the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin law schools. Despite much progress, Macaulay notes that standard legal scholarship has yet to incorporate well-accepted empirical discoveries about how law actually operates "in action." He goes on to discuss how a new legal realism could build on but differ from its predecessor.

Keywords: legal theory, legal realism, history of legal thought, law and social science research, law in action

Suggested Citation

Macaulay, Stewart, The New Versus the Old Legal Realism: 'Things Ain't What They Used to Be'. Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1012; Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2005, No. 2, pp. 365-403, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Stewart Macaulay (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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