A Critique of Adjudication [Fin de Siecle] (Revised)

Duncan Kennedy (Author)


A major statement from one of the foremost legal theorists of our day, this book offers a penetrating look into the political nature of legal, and especially judicial, decision making. It is also the first sustained attempt to integrate the American approach to law, an uneasy balance of deep commitment and intense skepticism, with the Continental tradition in social theory, philosophy, and psychology.

At the center of this work is the question of how politics affects judicial activity-and how, in turn, lawmaking by judges affects American politics. Duncan Kennedy considers opposing views about whether law is political in character and, if so, how. He puts forward an original, distinctive, and remarkably lucid theory of adjudication that includes accounts of both judicial rhetoric and the experience of judging. With an eye to the current state of theory, legal or otherwise, he also includes a provocative discussion of postmodernism.

Ultimately concerned with the practical consequences of ideas about the law, A Critique of Adjudication explores the aspects and implications of adjudication as few books have in this century. As a comprehensive and powerfully argued statement of a critical position in modern American legal thought, it will be essential to any balanced picture of the legal, political, and cultural life of our nation.

Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
September 01, 1998
6.0 X 1.1 X 9.0 inches | 1.4 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Duncan Kennedy is Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School.


The book skillfully achieves its intended objectives and provides us with a remarkable and original approach to the problems of jurisprudence...It is impossible to summarise here the various aspects of this impressive work, much less comment on them.--Pavlos Eleftheriadis "Modern Law Review [UK "
Duncan Kennedy's Critique of Adjudication is a lively, accessible and, at times, deliciously irreverent book. It is also a very serious scholarly attempt to explore and theorize the adjudicative process in North America...[It] is well-structured and signposted throughout so that, although densely argued and full of (generally highly diverting) sub-themes, one can usually find one's way back to the main thread of the argument without much difficulty.--Joanne Conaghan "Journal of Law and Society "
Duncan Kennedy is one of the most prominent and influential legal theorists of the day. This is a major effort summarizing, clarifying, and elaborating his views on the core questions of jurisprudence. Kennedy's argument is about the political nature of legal, and especially judicial, decisionmaking. It follows directly and self-consciously in a centuries-old line of debate that has been especially intense in the United States throughout much of the twentieth century. The two principal books with which to compare Kennedy's in recent decades are H.L.A. Hart's The Concept of Law and Ronald Dworkin's Law's Empire. Kennedy's book deserves to be as popular as they have been.--William H. Simon, Stanford Law School