Document Type


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Publication Citation

26 Law and Society Review 237 (1992)


Using case studies and interviews with lawyers and representatives in class actions, this article explores the contribution that class actions make to their ostensible beneficiaries. The article first distinguishes the major types of class actions in terms of the roles of lawyers and class representatives, ranging from very passive representatives to individuals intensively involved with the dispute that gave rise to the litigation. The article next seeks to evaluate the class actions. On the basis of the results of the class actions, the article finds that class actions cannot be proclaimed major contributors to social change. The focus on results, however, is somewhat misleading. The class action plays a much more significant role through its impact on the parties as litigants and as individuals involved with a dispute. To understand this dimension, which has applications beyond the class action, the article suggests that the dispute transformation perspective should be modified to go beyond the metaphor of a dispute that changes form as it goes through different processes. Disputants in the class action can be thought of as an audience that interprets itself-and is empowered or disempowered-in part by what it learns from watching a legal dramatization of the dispute.