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The Lonely, Homeless Left Finally Has A Place At Harvard

Via Prof. Yin, I see that a new online journal has started at Harvard: Unbound: The Harvard Journal of the Legal Left. Seeing that reminds me of the old joke about magazines like Maxim: when they publish "The Sex Issue" every year, what exactly do they think the other eleven issues are? But apparently conservative barbarians aren't just at the gates at Harvard, they've stormed the faculty houses and are busy breaking the china, fouling the (very progressive) hand-woven carpets, and putting little barbarian horned-helmets on the Dean's dog:

Like many on the legal left, we feel a bit homeless. Others have built substantial "progressive" organizations and law reviews that support, channel, and house their political and intellectual endeavors. While we often sympathize with and participate in activist projects that advance economic redistribution, human rights, and racial, gender and sexual equality, we are unsatisfied with the constraining language of liberalism within which such projects tend to operate. We'd like something spicier and more satisfying, a place where we can refine our ideas without having to justify our existence to unsympathetic critics.

In today's legal world, conservatives have convinced many that legal decisions must be made on the basis of "original understanding" or "economic efficiency," terms which are not facially invalid but which often mask more nefarious goals.

Yes, the nefarious goals of the members of the Vast Right Wing Legal Conspiracy. You can identify us easily by the Snidely Whiplash moustaches that we like to twirl menacingly.

But of course, I didn't go check out Unbound for the political discourse. My interest was in discovering the technology they use to generate their content, given my recent interest in content management systems for journals. Sadly, my brief search of the code didn't find anything that let me identify their system, and for all I know it's hand-coded. On the other hand, the code does hold one surprising metatag:


Indeed. On the meta-level Unbound does seem to be creating a whole new style of discourse.

Update: Hmm. Or perhaps the journal just believes in truth in advertising. One of the graphic designers of Unbound is Jedediah Smith Ela, who is also behind the 'long term art project' known as ShitBeGone toilet paper. That explains that, then.


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Yesterday, I noticed a new law journal at Harvard, Unbound: The Harvard Journal of the Legal Left. Like Three Years of Hell (An... [Read More]

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While I haven't (and don't intend) to look into this zine I suspect you may be a little off here. Speaking as a genuine, middle of the road European liberal lefty I'd suggest that there's very little that looks genuinely left wing in American politics. I mean it's not like Harvard is full of Marxists, or neo-Marxists, or even members of trade unions. You'd probably have a hard time finding a department that could be described as having 'socialist leanings' or something similar. My impression is that Harvard is full of liberal minded centrist types who for some reason keep getting referred to as 'The Left'. Except for the Harvard Business School, which judging by their output is full of genuinely hard right capitalists. If the democratic party were transferred lock stock and barrel to the UK most of its senators would flee to the Conservative party, where their nuanced positions on everything from guns and abortion to execution, free speech and campaign finance would see them firmly on the lunatic fringes. Lord only knows what would happen were say Inhofe or Santorum to cross the pond. So if there is a band of neo-Marxist lawyers operating in Harvard then I'm perfectly prepared to agree that they need a magazine.
A British student in my constitutional law class was telling me yesterday that she found Columbia to be very conservative. I may have gawked at her, as Columbia and NYC generally are easily the most liberal places I've ever been. Then again, perhaps that is the crux: we're mostly liberal but not left, in any radical way. The majority of students politely support ending discrimination, empowering women, etc., but they'll also be joining law firms in order to work for capitalist entities. It's not so much an attempt to overturn the existing structures as to make them more inclusive. A liberal wants gay people to get married like the rest of us; a leftist questions why we have "marriage" at all. Leftism is just so darn inconvenient for liberals -- all those strikes and such -- and we vaguely suspect that favoring gradual increases in the minimum wage won't keep us from ending up against the wall come the revolution. Re: abortion, George Will claimed that the UK is more conservative in its use than the US. Not accurate?
PG writes: "but they'll also be joining law firms in order to work for capitalist entities" Exactly. If a lawyer complains to me about the right-wing bias of his or her profession, my first thought is that they may well have chosen the wrong profession. Which is not to say that all legal activity is pro-right by any means. Nonetheless, law is not a profession for the politically faint of heart.
Pah, go to Latin America, where you'll find plenty of die hard lefitst lawyers fighting all kinds of tyranny and abuse. The law is an artefact of society, not capitalism. Hell, I'm pretty sure cuba has lawyers, and probably North Korea too. It's not your skills, it's what you do with them. In the UK I have no idea about statistics on how many conceptions end in abortion. I do know that every major political party is pro-choice. (In Ireland things may not be so clear cut) But a simple x conceptions y abortions number isn't much use. It'd be more use if you could compare for similar socio-economic groups, religious affiliations, age cohorts and so on.
Its worth noting that "conservative" does not mean the opposite of "liberal" in the UK. In fact, as far as I know the two words don't even mean the same things in British parlance. The opposite of "conservative" in British english is probably "radical", although the Conservative party is not particularly characterised by anti-radicalness (well arguably it is, but that is not its defining trait at the moment). The opposite of "liberal" would be... well, it would depend on the context. I suppose the opposite of a liberal might be someone in favour of a large state with lots of regulation. Again, the Liberal Democrat party are not particularly characterised by believing in a small state - somewhat the opposite in fact. This state of linguistic confusion is further coloured by a certain amount of cross-talk between British and American political commentary, which means that the words in question can occasionally have their American meaning over here as well. <sigh>

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