Helsinki Legal History Series: Amalia Kessler 28.5.

We warmly welcome you to join the Helsinki Legal History Series Lecture with Amalia Kessler on 28.5.

When: Tuesday, 28 May 2024, 3:00pm - 4:30pm (UTC+3).

Where: Porthania, P545. You can also join us online via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 637 3244 0554
Passcode: 331089

Title: Arbitration and the Quest for Modern American Democracy: Struggles over Industrialization, Immigration, and State-building, 1900-1950 (under contract, Yale University Press)

Abstract: Although arbitration has deep roots in the United States, the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a remarkable surge of enthusiasm for the procedure, giving rise to legislative and institutional experiments at multiple levels of government. A broad range of actors and interests embraced arbitration as key to the revitalization of American democracy in a modern age beset by pressing new challenges of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. And a striking proportion of these were Jewish. According to advocates of arbitration, the procedure facilitated new forms of private/public partnership that would enable expanded, lawyer-free access to justice and give voice to disempowered groups—ranging from small-scale business organizations and labor unions to Jewish communal minorities. The end result, they hoped, would be to generate a more socially expansive and culturally pluralist society, refashioning American democracy for the modern industrial era.

Recovering this forgotten history of arbitration reveals the surprising role that this seemingly technical and abstruse procedure played in two key developments that profoundly transformed the United States roughly a century ago and whose legacies remain with us to this day—namely, the rise of the modern administrative state and the emergence of cultural pluralism as a defining, though contested feature of American society.

This seminar is part of the Helsinki Legal History Series in collaboration with the CoCoLaw project. In 2024 the Helsinki Legal History Series runs under the theme of "Identities and Legal Histories". We are focusing on the questions of how have collective identities shaped law, and how has law been used to affect, change or protect common identities? Does law recognize marginalized identities or is the history of law a narrative of exclusion?