The political value of knowledge and the elite schools' curricula: To ignore or not to ignore Marxism

Neacsu, Dana

This article focuses on the content of elite law schools' curricula. Like all such debates, this one also reflects the author's political and social concerns, which at this time are questioning the impact such curricula have on the graduates' abilities to deliberate "upon the full range of issues which might appear directly or indirectly on a less impoverished [contemporary] political agenda." Elite law schools, which are usually associated with elite universities, are expected to offer liberal legal education. Elite law schools are the fountain of legal scholarship. They are also the place where many of this nation's leaders acquire both legal knowledge about truth and ideologies -- lenses through which they see the world, form their beliefs and then act accordingly. This author understands the goals of liberal education to translate John Stuart Mill's principle of "market of ideas" into a content-rich curriculum. As Mill wrote, "the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it." To the contrary, this article argues, currently elite law schools have abandoned Mill's principle. They favor a more limited version, one that excludes uncomfortable theories, such as Marxism. Omitting Marx's writings, this article argues, is not an innocuous curricular reduction. If theories are subjective constructs -- "academic elites make theories in their own image," then a curriculum stripped of a theory that emphasizes a different perspective about legal phenomena risks being perceived as a mere exercise in cultural hegemony. Our society is still based on classes that are identified economically, and our law still has to govern the behavior of people with different economic constraints. For example, Marx's writings, as argued here, make it easier to articulate why a rational choice for those who rely on public services is to favor progressive taxation, and for those who rely on private services, tax cuts.


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University of Detroit Mercy Law Review

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Academic Units
Diamond Law Library
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March 19, 2013