Monday, June 22, 2009

one of the best paragraphs i've read in a while

From Tomlins, Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic:

"Although traces of the hierarchical communitarian society exalted in some previous opinions yet remained, Thacher's charge [for the criminalization of conspiracies formed by workers] demonstrates how far, by the early 1830's, American common law had come toward incorporating the economic liberalism of classical political economy. It is crucial to note, however, that economic liberalism had blended with, it had not displaced, the elite republicanism characteristic of common law discourse in its earlier, Federalist, incarnation. As I have already argued at some length, market society had a vital interest in safety. A free market was the means through which the nineteenth century's transactional ideal might best be realized in social and economic life, and for this reason its maintenance should be an important object of policy. But it was law, not the market, which was constitutive of civil society. This of course gave Thacher an additional reason for condemning combinations: Not merely did their attempts to impose their own private regulations on others offend against the economic laws of the marketplace by interfering with the free interaction of private interests, they also posed a major threat to the law and its monopoly of legitimate coercion by assuming to exercise powers that none but the juridical structures built to sustain republican society could legitimately possess. One may, in short, acknowledge the considerable and growing correspondence between those structures and the competitive, capitalist society springing up in their midst, but still one must also appreciate that when judges like Thacher, and like his New York contemporary Ogden Edwards, condemned labor combinations, they did so not as the willing agents of employers but as ideologues committed to a particular conception of the role of law in republican society. Theirs, we have seen, was a republic constituted by the legitimate coercive power of an Anglocentric common law. They pursued labor conspiracies with particular intensity because in their minds that common law vision was at stake, and thus the commonwealth itself."

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