Law in Contemporary Society
-- NonaFarahnik - 02 Mar 2010

When I was introduced to Realism in Legal Methods, I felt that I had been there before. I guess that I inadvertently incorporated bits and pieces of its ideas into my personal philosophy, without realizing those ideas were part of a coherent line of legal thought. When I read Arnold, it feels like I am reading many of my own undeveloped feelings, buttressed with knowledge, eloquence, and precision beyond my scope of expression.

Therapy session aside, as I read most of part 2 for the first time today (sorry Eben), I immediately thought about the U.S. Coast Guard. One of the stories relayed in this article has stayed with me as an example of how to think about an organization's institutional culture. I hope you enjoy it too.

"You can learn about the culture of an organization from the stories its members tell. One of the Coast Guard's most celebrated rescues was of the crew of the doomed oil tanker the Pendleton in 1952 off Massachusetts. In 60-ft. seas, during a snowstorm, Coast Guard officers managed to pile all 32 survivors onto a 36-ft. wooden lifeboat moments before the tanker capsized. But when the coxswain radioed his superiors for further direction, his commanders argued over the radio waves about what to do next. Instead of wasting precious time, the coxswain switched off the radio and made up his mind to head for shore. Everyone survived, and the Coast Guard crew received gold lifesaving medals. "There's no place to hide in the Coast Guard," says Rear Admiral Robert Duncan, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, which includes the Gulf Coast states. "So we end up with a culture that is not averse to taking measured risk.""

-- AerinMiller - 03 Mar 2010

Yes! I completely agree with your first paragraph (and thanks for the second too, that's a great story). I knew little to nothing about legal realism coming in except as it relates to realist political theory and of course modernism, but Arnold's ideas feel extremely organic, almost dated. I'm glad to be part of the minority in our larger class reading realist writing its long form.

That's not to say that I did't struggle with Arnold's ideas - in comparison to Holmes or Cohen he reads really opaque (and I don't think I was the only one in the class who thought so). Last week in class I asked Eben a question about the specifics of Arnold's first sections outlining the growth of government and then the growth of big biz and the corporation, and the respose was something along the lines of 'please focus on the big picture.' I re-read with those words in mind and his ideas, especially his picture of the modern corporation, seemed to lift and clarify. I know the Arnold section is done but I wouldn't mind a little more discussion if anyone is interested in contributing.


Webs Webs

r3 - 17 Apr 2010 - 14:45:46 - NonaFarahnik
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