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35 Buffalo Law Review 381 (1986)


In this Article, Professor Gjerdingen argues that the current crisis in legal scholarship can be traced to a change in the dominant concept of American law. He argues that virtually all of the significant schools of American legal thought during the last century, from Langdellian orthodoxy to realism to the legal process school, were dominated by a concept of law that separated law and politics. This concept of law, which he terms "conventionalism," presumed that law was an autonomous, apolitical discipline dominated by the study of adjudication and classical common law categories. In contrast, the new legal scholarship of the last decade-which includes not only critical legal studies but an as yet unrecognized group of centrist scholars, which he terms the "legal theory" movement-is implicitly based on a new, modern theory of law that offers an alternative to conventionalism. This theory recognizes that a central concern of legal scholarship must be to understand the relation between law and politics and the role of legal culture. To explain this phenomenon, Professor Gjerdingen offers prolegomena for a "theory of legal consciousness" and for the "modern theory of law" as well as an assessment of the future of the new scholarship.