The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"The Rise and Fall of Jews at Law Schools"


An interesting essay by New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe. A taste:

Many, if not most, students have bought into academic lessons peddled in the 1980s and '90s as an outgrowth of what's often called critical legal theory. Among them:

Law is not a neutral institution designed to ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes in a diverse society.
Neutrality is not an unachieved but noble goal.
Legal institutions are just a vicious guise that allows the powerful to exploit the weak.
The law is not a flawed but worthy process to improve, but an evil institution to weaponize or dismantle.
The lecture halls in our law schools are now filled with professors and students who believe these things. In their view, the profession is no longer an essential gatekeeper of the rule of law, a key component of the American founding. Instead, it's a part of the problem: a white, racist, oppressive clique that uses its claims of fairness to mask its oppression of the powerless.

This kind of thinking is a big problem for Jews.

As they say, read the whole thing. I think there is also much more to say on the topic about how Critical Legal Studies and its offshoots were and are rebellions not just against formerly dominant legal liberalism, but against a particular kind of mid-century legal liberalism among whose champions Jews were wildly disproportionately represented, and the triumph of which coincided with the rise of Jews in the legal profession and (especially) the legal academy.

It's not a coincidence and it surely did not go unnoticed that when students at Harvard and Yale back in the mid 80s started protesting the oppressive liberalism and "white" demographics of the Yale and Harvard faculties, the old WASP faculty was largely gone or going, and replaced by a plurality or majority of Jewish professors. The sort of radicals who found the liberals of Jewish descent like Owen Fiss, Harry Hillel Wellington (who had felt obliged to change his last name from Weinstein back in the day), and Nazi refugee Guido Calabresi as representing an institutionally (if not personally) racist old guard were hardly likely to be sympathetic to Jewish concerns as they gained power.