Scholarly Articles and Other Contributions
 

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1970

Abstract

Critics assert that law is a conservative force designed to impede and obstruct change and that it is a major instrument of coercion used by special interests in the society (read owners and managers of capital) to reinforce their control over institutions. Under this thesis, judges, legislators, administrators, and even "independent" lawyers spend the major part of their time preserving the status quo and preventing new or unusual demands from being supported or implemented. Proponents of this view conclude that meaningful change can be achieved only by working outside "the system" and by engaging in a continuous assault on all traditional institutions and practices. The contrary view characterizes law as an effective instrument for change for those lacking resources or who are outnumbered because only a few, dedicated, creative lawyers with persistent plaintiffs is required. Under this view the law is a catalytic agent that minority groups and the poor can use to alter conditions and publicize grievances. An analysis of the functioning of lawyers within the older and traditional civil rights movement is an excellent means of exploring the major criticisms of the two opposed positions.

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