The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change?

Gerald N. Rosenberg, Author University of Chicago Press $35.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-226-72702-8
Efforts by civil rights, women's rights and pro-abortion activists to use the courts to produce progressive social change have largely been failures, maintains Rosenberg. Focusing on the historic 1954 Brown decision on school desegregation, on Roe v. Wade , upholding women's right to abortion, and on other Supreme Court cases, this University of Chicago political scientist argues that such decisions actually had little effect in generating positive change, partly because the judiciary has no powers of implementation. Rosenberg views the courts as ``fly-paper for social reformers who succumb to `the lure of litigation.' '' and who, in so doing, siphon off crucial movement resources while mistaking symbolic victories for substantive ones. In a concluding section, the author finds that activists' judicial victories with regard to the environment, criminal rights and reapportionment of state legislatures have been equally hollow. His strained analysis runs counter to accepted wisdom and to scholarship. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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