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In follow-up studies, dozens of reviews, and even a book of essays evaluating his conclusions, Gerald Rosenberg’s critics—not to mention his supporters—have spent nearly two decades debating the arguments he first put forward in The Hollow Hope. With this substantially expanded second edition of his landmark work, Rosenberg himself steps back into the fray, responding to criticism and adding chapters on the same-sex marriage battle that ask anew whether courts can spur political and social reform.
            Finding that the answer is still a resounding no, Rosenberg reaffirms his powerful contention that it’s nearly impossible to generate significant reforms through litigation. The reason? American courts are ineffective and relatively weak—far from the uniquely powerful sources for change they’re often portrayed as. Rosenberg supports this claim by documenting the direct and secondary effects of key court decisions—particularly Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. He reveals, for example, that Congress, the White House, and a determined civil rights movement did far more than Brown to advance desegregation, while pro-choice activists invested too much in Roe at the expense of political mobilization. Further illuminating these cases, as well as the ongoing fight for same-sex marriage rights, Rosenberg also marshals impressive evidence to overturn the common assumption that even unsuccessful litigation can advance a cause by raising its profile.
            Directly addressing its critics in a new conclusion, The Hollow Hope, Second Edition promises to reignite for a new generation the national debate it sparked seventeen years ago.
Published: University of Chicago Press an imprint of UChicagoPress on
ISBN: 9780226726687
List price: $22.50
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The title asks "Can Courts Bring About Social Change?", and Rosenberg does not pull any punches in his answer: "No". And he makes this case with reference to what is considered to be the judiciary's proudest moment: school desegregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education.Or should we say, the lack of desegregation. As Professor Rosenberg indicates, the most striking thing about the years following Brown is just how little impact it had. In 1954, the year Brown was decided, .001% of Black schoolchildren the south attended integrated schools (that *point* 001%, so 1 in 100,000). In 1958, that had risen to .13%, and by 1962 it was a whopping .45% -- so still, less than one-half of one percent. Desegregation didn't begin in earnest until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and basically began dangling huge sums of money in front of local school boards as an incentive.Of course, many argue that Brown's value was symbolic or galvanizing in increasing the pressure of the civil rights movement. Obviously this sort of causal chain is harder to prove or disprove, but Rosenberg makes a game effort, examining media coverage and rhetoric in both the White and Black community to try and see just how influential Brown was (he concludes that, at least at the time of the decision, far less than commonly presumed).One does not have to follow Rosenberg all the way down his road to find his argument provocative and worth pondering. Indeed, when I assign it to my students, this is a book that always gets a rise out of everyone -- but also causes more than a few to remark that it has caused them to really rethink their beliefs and examine the law of this era with a more critical eye. That's the mark of a piece of scholarship that is justly influential, and The Hollow Hope is well-deserving of its place as one of the most important books on the American judiciary of the past 50 years.more

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The title asks "Can Courts Bring About Social Change?", and Rosenberg does not pull any punches in his answer: "No". And he makes this case with reference to what is considered to be the judiciary's proudest moment: school desegregation in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education.Or should we say, the lack of desegregation. As Professor Rosenberg indicates, the most striking thing about the years following Brown is just how little impact it had. In 1954, the year Brown was decided, .001% of Black schoolchildren the south attended integrated schools (that *point* 001%, so 1 in 100,000). In 1958, that had risen to .13%, and by 1962 it was a whopping .45% -- so still, less than one-half of one percent. Desegregation didn't begin in earnest until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and basically began dangling huge sums of money in front of local school boards as an incentive.Of course, many argue that Brown's value was symbolic or galvanizing in increasing the pressure of the civil rights movement. Obviously this sort of causal chain is harder to prove or disprove, but Rosenberg makes a game effort, examining media coverage and rhetoric in both the White and Black community to try and see just how influential Brown was (he concludes that, at least at the time of the decision, far less than commonly presumed).One does not have to follow Rosenberg all the way down his road to find his argument provocative and worth pondering. Indeed, when I assign it to my students, this is a book that always gets a rise out of everyone -- but also causes more than a few to remark that it has caused them to really rethink their beliefs and examine the law of this era with a more critical eye. That's the mark of a piece of scholarship that is justly influential, and The Hollow Hope is well-deserving of its place as one of the most important books on the American judiciary of the past 50 years.more
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