A Nation Under Lawyers. By Mary Ann Glendon.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 331 pages, $24.
In a witty and readable blend of anecdote and analysis-a portion of which appeared in First Things (“Legal Ethics-Worlds in Collision,” March 1994)-Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, examines the adversarial practice of law in America today. And, thereby, she uncovers the ways in which lawyers have both fed and fed upon the convulsions in American culture since the 1950s. The mutation of the practice of law, Professor Glendon argues, originates as much in the sociology of the legal profession as in the activism of the courts. Though changes in legal interpretation since the Warren Court have been significant, changes in legal procedure have been equally and perhaps more significant. Lawyers have found their antique practices, their ethical underpinnings, and their guild courtesies collapse under the pressures of overburdened court dockets, big-money clients, and the advanced, post-Marxist, anti-procedural theory emanating from the law schools. In itself, this is not surprising; the changes overtaking lawyers are the changes overtaking us all. But the legal profession is more than a synecdoche for the general culture; lawyers and what lawyers do have enormous importance for a nation that has undertaken to live under the rule of law. Professor Glendon has written a book that is deeply conservative-conservative in the highest sense of the word-for A Nation Under Lawyers is neither an abstract treatise about conservative theory nor a curmudgeonly mewl about the good old days. It is rather a reasoned, accessible argument that tradition-especially a tradition as rich as the American development of English Common Law-offers us resources for reclaiming a lost but vital portion of American culture.
Disciples and Democracies: Religious Conservatives and the Future of American Politics. Edited by Michael Cromartie.
Ethics and Public Policy Center/Eerdmans, 147 pages, $12.99 paper.
In 1993, the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. brought together a panel of scholars, journalists, and activists-many of whom have written for First Things-to analyze the election of President Clinton and the future of the religious right. Responses and roundtable discussions followed papers presented by Ralph Reed, John Green, and George Weigel, and this volume gathers them all together in a well- organized form. Mr. Reed endeavors to define exactly what religious conservatives want from politicians. Mr. Green demonstrates, by the statistics he and his colleagues gathered after the 1992 election, the solidarity of the religious right. Mr. Weigel, in the collection’s finest piece, considers the place of biblical rhetoric in a secular democracy. Irving Kristol provides a fascinating introduction, and the responses and discussions following the papers clarify the situation of the religious right-though obviously, after the 1994 election, some of the more immediately topical material is outdated.
Oxford University Press, 189 pp, $22.
In an attempt to cash in on the pseudo-mysticism craze rampant in some branches of feminism, the two male authors (and Oxford University Press) filch from a wide variety of religious documents seventy-five stories about the relation of females and the divine-and thereby manage to blaspheme against the religions of almost everyone, from Catholics to Hindus to Navahos to Jews. The extraordinary thing about the book, however, is not how blasphemous but how dated it all seems. The authors organize the stories in a “historically correct” narrative in which they hope, by a sort of osmosis, one of Carl Jung’s archetypes will emerge- though it must be twenty years since anyone besides Joseph Campbell thought that simple juxtaposition of various cultures’ stories would produce a Jungian archetype. Equally outdated is the authors’ wonderfully naive assumption that all religions must be saying much the same thing. But, of course, if we rip all their stories out of context, carefully ignore their distinctions, and forcefully eradicate their particularity, it does turn out that all religions are saying much the same thing, or at least much the same nothing.
Ethics After Christendom. By Vigen Guroian.
Eerdmans. 206 pages, $12.99 paper.
With fascinating analyses of Orthodox liturgies and practices, Guroian argues for the specificity of ecclesial ethics-for the specific insights into the knotty ethical problems of the family, ecology, and euthanasia that the liturgical structure of the church can give us. The care with which it engages contemporary Protestant and Catholic authors, and the learning with which it draws upon the rich traditions of Orthodox theology and ecclesiology, make this attempt to describe a sacramental and churchly ethics a worthy read. The book is much too quick, however, to accept the end of Judeo-Christian culture, and Guroian seems to write in part out of a misplaced sense of inferiority-as though he thinks that he can make us discover the resources of his Armenian and Orthodox traditions only if we have already lost all of our own religious and ethical traditions.
Liberalism at the Crossroads. Edited by Christopher Wolfe and John Hittinger.
Rowman and Littlefield, $19.95 paper.
You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, but the task of providing a scorecard of the players in a contemporary intellectual field is typically thankless. Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Hittinger, however, deserve enormous thanks for collecting these essays that sort out and present in brief, intelligible compass the political theories of the major writers in the field: Rawls, Dworkin, Nozick, MacIntyre, Unger, Rorty, et al. Both conservatives and radicals have in many ways turned against liberalism in contemporary politics. And both traditionalists and postmodernists have in many ways turned against liberalism in contemporary philosophy. But liberalism still remains at the center of all our thought about political theory, and around liberalism the concerns, interests, and arguments of all our political theorists still turn. This book provides a clear introduction to the state of contemporary political theory: both why liberalism is in crisis and what defenses remain to it.
The Feminist Question. By Francis Martin.
Eerdmans. 461 pp. $29.95 paper.
A serious theologian makes a valiant attempt to find something of profundity in feminist theology. The author is right that those who simply dismiss the feminist theologians may be missing something: good minds, even when working in a silly and fashionable ideology, are bound to make a good observation from time to time. And, as Francis Martin shows, there is a good mind or two at work in feminist theology. But as he works his way through the assertions of the feminists he finds at last that their presuppositions are not theological. Theology, in feminist hands, is a tool for advancing a political and social agenda. The fact remains that the roles available for women in the history of the church have not always been appropriate, and the fact remains that a minor poetic tradition of using feminine attributes to speak of God has not until recently been investigated. But Martin shows that these facts are insufficient to ground an alternative to traditional theology, just as they are insufficient to provide a reason for overturning all of Christian thought. The only reason for doing that would be to advance a feminist agenda entirely at odds with the reason for doing theology in the first place.