Seminar on Steve Teles’ The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement – Updated Version with Links and PDF

by Henry Farrell on May 3, 2009

Welcome to a new Crooked Timber seminar, this one on Steve Teles’ recent book _The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law_ (Amazon, Powells). This has already become a landmark book in the burgeoning literature on American conservatism, charting out the organizational strategies through which economic conservatives and libertarians (as the book notes, it doesn’t have much to say about religious conservatism) sought to respond to the liberal legal culture of 1960s America, and to turn it back. It’s a great story, not least because Teles talks about the mistakes that the conservatives made as well as their successes. There is a tendency on the left to see the conservative movement as an incredibly efficient institutional Borg that adopted a masterplan in the 1960s, implemented it through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and then saw it all collapse in the last couple of years. Teles gives this account the lie, showing us the organizational false starts as well as the success stories.

We have a great series of responses to Teles’ book – see below for links to all of them. Those who prefer to read this seminar as a PDF can find it “here”:

As with other seminars, all the contents are made available under a Creative Commons With Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike license. To make it easier for people to remix the content as they will, we are making the TeX file for the seminar available “here”:

Our contributors this week:

“Jack Balkin”: is Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment. He blogs at “Balkinization”: His contribution – “What Teles Can Tell Us About Constitutional Change”:

“Tyler Cowen”: is professor of economics at George Mason University, and author of the forthcoming book “Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World”: He blogs at “Marginal Revolution”: His contribution – “One Economist’s Perspective on the Law and Economics Movement”:

Henry Farrell blogs here. His contribution – “Fabians and Gramscians in Law and Economics”:

“Kimberly Morgan”: is associate professor of political science at the George Washington University. She is author of “Working Mothers and the Welfare State: Religion and the Politics of Work-Family Policies in Western Europe and the United States”: Her contribution – ”
Legal Conservatives as Closet Gramscians”:

“David Post”: is I. Herman Stern Professor of Law at Temple University. He has just written “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace”: He blogs at “The Volokh Conspiracy”: His contribution – “Living Life Forwards”:

“Rick Perlstein”: is author of _Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus_ and _Nixonland_, which has “just come out in paperback”: His contribution – “What Liberals Shouldn’t Learn from Conservatives”:

“Fabio Rojas”: is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. He blogs at “OrgTheory”: He is author of “From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline”: His contribution – “The Failed Conservative Revolution”:

“Mark Schmitt”: is executive editor of _The American Prospect._ He previously has been a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, Director of Policy and Research at the Open Society Institute, and a speechwriter for Senator Bill Bradley. He was also the author of much-missed blog, _The Decembrist._ His contribution – “Bunglers, Egos, and Law vs. Politics”:

“Aaron Swartz”: co-founded Reddit, and is now an activist, writer and hacker. He is involved or has been involved in Change Congress, the Open Library project, the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Congress project, and other stuff too multitudinous to list. He blogs at “Raw Thoughts”: His contribution – “Political Entrepreneurs and Lunatics with Money”:

“Steve Teles”: is associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He is also a fellow at the New America Foundation. His response to all the above is “here”:



geoff manne 04.27.09 at 5:49 pm

It seems odd to me that you have precisely no one from within law and economics (or even tangentially attached to it), even though law and economics accounts for around a third of Steve’s (excellent) book.


Henry 04.27.09 at 7:32 pm

Tyler, I think, qualifies as someone who does law and economics, albeit not in the most conventional sense of the word. I did try to get a couple of bread-and-butter L&E people interested, but without success. More of a supply side problem than a demand side one.


Brain Drain 04.30.09 at 7:09 pm

yeah, let’s talk more about law & ec. It’s done such a great job justifying the deregulatory fervor that brought us the financial crisis.

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