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The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement:
The Battle for Control of the Law
Steven M. Teles

Winner of the 2009 Joseph J. Spengler Prize for Best Book in the History of Economics, History of Economics Society
Co-Winner of the 2009 Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law and Society Association
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

Paperback | 2010 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691146256
368 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 3 halftones. 1 line illus. 1 table.
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Starting in the 1970s, conservatives learned that electoral victory did not easily convert into a reversal of important liberal accomplishments, especially in the law. As a result, conservatives' mobilizing efforts increasingly turned to law schools, professional networks, public interest groups, and the judiciary--areas traditionally controlled by liberals. Drawing from internal documents, as well as interviews with key conservative figures, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement examines this sometimes fitful, and still only partially successful, conservative challenge to liberal domination of the law and American legal institutions.

Unlike accounts that depict the conservatives as fiendishly skilled, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement reveals the formidable challenges that conservatives faced in competing with legal liberalism. Steven Teles explores how conservative mobilization was shaped by the legal profession, the legacy of the liberal movement, and the difficulties in matching strategic opportunities with effective organizational responses. He explains how foundations and groups promoting conservative ideas built a network designed to dislodge legal liberalism from American elite institutions. And he portrays the reality, not of a grand strategy masterfully pursued, but of individuals and political entrepreneurs learning from trial and error.

Using previously unavailable materials from the Olin Foundation, Federalist Society, Center for Individual Rights, Institute for Justice, and Law and Economics Center, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement provides an unprecedented look at the inner life of the conservative movement. Lawyers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, and activists seeking to learn from the conservative experience in the law will find it compelling reading.


"In a terrific new book, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement, professor Steven M. Teles charts the success of the conservative legal establishment over the past several decades. Digging past liberal clichés about an all-powerful Federalist Society tree fort, Teles charts a complicated countermobilization that took place in legal academia and conservative public-interest law, against law schools and a government in thrall with liberal ideas. He chronicles the rise of a multifaceted organizational and institutional structure that has become the only game in town."--Dahilia Lithwick, Slate

"Teles's book is . . . a piece of first-rate scholarship based on archival research and many interviews. . . . [T]he Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement is a fine piece of historical scholarship and an important contribution to understanding strategies for combating entrenched political and intellectual elites."--Charlotte Allen, The Weekly Standard

"Steven Teles . . . examines a complex phenomenon still playing itself out in The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement. He does so thoughtfully and provocatively, and with access to key insiders and archival material. His book should be interesting to readers across the political spectrum. . . . Teles's book provides a panoramic, nonpartisan portrait of the sober and serious side of the conservative legal movement. In doing so, it can hopefully lead toward a respectful, constructive dialogue about the role of law in society."--Ronald Goldfarb, Washington Lawyer

"I am recommending Teles's book to all my liberal and progressive colleagues. . . . Perhaps if liberals and progressives pay enough attention to the lessons about problem-solving and adaptation taught in this valuable book, Prof. Teles will have an opportunity to write a sequel, The Renaissance of the Liberal Legal Network."--Michael Avery, Suffolk University Law Review

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1. Political Competition, Legal Change, and the New American State 6
Chapter 2. The Rise of the Liberal Legal Network 22
Chapter 3. Conservative Public Interest Law I: Mistakes Made 58
Chapter 4. Law and Economics I: Out of the Wilderness 90
Chapter 5. The Federalist Society: Counter-Networking 135
Chapter 6. Law and Economics II: Institutionalization 181
Chapter 7. Conservative Public Interest Law II: Lessons Learned 220
Conclusion 265
Interviews 283
Notes 287
Index 331


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