Educating American Lawyers: The New Haven School's Jurisprudence of Personal Character

Ríán Derrig will be presenting on the ‘Educating American Lawyers: The New Haven School’s Jurisprudence of Personal Character’ on 12 May at 3-4 pm. The presentation is based on his doctoral thesis at the EUI in Florence that explored the intellectual origins of one influential branch of American legal realism that has been especially influential in international law. The seminar is presented by the Erik Castrén Institute and EuroStorie. Welcome!

Drawing on an article based on doctoral research and recently published in the European Journal of International Law, in this presentation Ríán Derrig proposes a rereading of Harold Lasswell and Myres McDougal’s earliest 1943 statement of policy-oriented jurisprudence, also known as the ‘New Haven School’. Using previously unexploited archival sources and unpublished teaching materials, this rereading breaks with current understandings of the school. First, Derrig re-periodizes Lasswell and McDougal’s work as a product of interwar insecurities and the rising culture of American modernism from the 1920s. Second, Derrig emphasizes Lasswell and McDougal’s engagement with progressive politics of the early 20th century – New Deal social planning and redistribution; psychoanalytically inspired social critique; Marxism and socialism. Third, Derrig argues that the school’s primary intellectual origins are to be found not in American legal realism or positivist social science, but in philosophical pragmatism and psychoanalysis. During the Cold War McDougal associated the New Haven School prominently with interventionist, anti-communist American foreign policies, and Derrig concludes by identifying underappreciated themes highlighted by my findings in his seminal writings.   

The article on which the presentation is based can be found here:  

Ríán Derrig is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Global Constitutionalism at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and completed his doctorate under Prof. Nehal Bhuta at EUI. He is currently working on the history and theory of interwar and mid-twentieth century legal science, focusing on relationships between theorists of the constitutional state, and psychological theories of the unconscious.  

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