A Social Psychological Interpretation of the Hermeneutic of Suspicion in Contemporary American Legal Thought

Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 4:30pm
301 Marx Hall
Event Category: 

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

According to many observers, policy discourses that claim specialized expertise and sometimes dispose significant ideological stakes are increasingly politicized.  One symptom is that experts within the discourse attack each other for supposed ideologically motivated errors in interpreting the materials, whatever they are.  The paper describes the way this practice has evolved in law, understood here as a policy discourse similar and different from the others.  It theorizes mutual accusations of ideological bias as an aspect of the general juridification of American society, economy and politics, and also as a social psychologically plausible response to the deep ethical difficulties in being the expert master of a practically consequential “mystery.”

This paper is a chapter in J.Desautels-Stein & C.Tomlins, eds., Searching for Contemporary Legal Thought (Cambridge Univ. Press 2017)

Duncan Kennedy
Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Emeritus
Harvard Law School

Duncan Kennedy is the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Emeritus at Harvard Law School where he taught Low Income Housing Law and Policy, Law and Development, and globalization of law, along with courses in the sociology of law and the history of legal thought.  He was one of the founding members of the critical legal studies movement, a left-of-liberal academic activist movement that flourished from around 1975 to 1995.

Kim Lane Scheppele
Princeton University

Professor Kim Lane Scheppele is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. From 2005-2015, she was Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton.  Scheppele is an elected member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the International Academy of Comparative Law.  In 2014, she received the Law and Society Association’s Kalven Prize for influential scholarship.   She held tenure in the political science department at the University of Michigan, was the founding director of the gender program at Central European University Budapest and has taught in the law schools at Michigan, Yale, Harvard, Erasmus/Rotterdam, and Humboldt/Berlin.   During 2017-2019, she is serving as the elected President of the Law and Society Association.