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Legal Realism Primer

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An LPE Reading List & Introduction to Legal Realism.

Legal realism was a movement in legal thought that began, roughly, in the late 19th century and flourished alongside Progressivism in the first decades of the 20th. It challenged formalist laissez-faire approaches to the law and called for a jurisprudence more consciously attuned to social realities and empirical research. Since then, the realists have received a variety of interpretations and substantially influenced American law. The bibliography below is intended to provide an overview of writings by and about legal realists that emphasizes the elements of realism that are most relevant to a Law and Political Economy approach to law. The text that follows is a brief introduction to realism’s context, some of its characteristic arguments, and its legacies. It too is primarily oriented toward realism as a precursor of LPE. It tries to be thorough but certainly does not claim to be comprehensive.

This primer was prepared for the Anti-Monopoly and Regulated Industries Summer Academy. Sam Aber drafted it in consultation with the Faculty Planning Committee, which included Amy Kapczynski, Sabeel Rahman, William Novak, Frank Pasquale, Lina Khan, and Project Lead Jay Varellas.