Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Aren't there any influential women thinkers?

Brian Leiter has opened a poll on his Law School blog on who the “most important thinker in American law” in the 20th century was/is. All the eleven individuals named on the poll are, without question, influential legal thinkers. Here’s the list:
► Bruce Ackerman
► Guido Calabresi
► Benjamin Cardozo
► Ronald Dworkin
► Richard Epstein
► Lon Fuller
► Henry M Hart Jnr
► Kart Llewellyn
► Richard Posner
► Roscoe Pound
► Herbert Wechsler

They are not all American, which I guess must mean that Leiter intended to ask who had the most impact on American legal thought generally rather than who was the most influential American thinker. In addition, all of the individuals on the list are lawyers or legal philosophers—non-lawyers like Foucault (left), for example, make no appearance. Most strikingly, perhaps, is the complete absence of women thinkers on the list. What might the explanations be? Well, let us look first at the selection criteria used to put the list together:
(1) for those born in the 19th-century, most of the thinker's important work must have been done in the 20th-century; (2) those thinkers who are still alive must have entered the profession in the 1960s or earlier; (3) the thinker must have made contributions in more than one field; (4) the thinker's contributions must have had a wide-ranging impact on American legal thinking and scholarship.

These selection criteria themselves make the inclusion of women somewhat difficult on the list—entering the academic profession as a woman in the 1960s or earlier was a particularly difficult task, although of course if the third criterion were interpreted as meaning ‘entering the legal profession including entering law school’ in the 1960s or earlier many more female scholars may be eligible for the list.
If we were to put together a list that was more inclusive—let’s say one that did not have the ‘entered the profession in the 1960s’ cut-off point (which seems to somewhat unde
rmine the impact of those scholars who entered later and still managed to have an enormous influence on legal thought)—who might we include on such a list? Some examples come immediately to my mind: Martha Nussbaum (pictured right), Ann Marie Slaughter, Martha Fineman, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Margaret Radin, for example.
What are your thoughts on the list, the selection criteria, and the women thinkers who have had the most influence on American legal thought?


Kevin Jon Heller said...

What a no-brainer: Hannah Arendt.

Fiona de Londras said...

So right--has been as influential on legal thought in America as she has been on European and international legal thought though??

M. Nic Ionnrachtaigh said...

Catharine MacKinnon anybody?

Fiona de Londras said...

Yes--Diane mentions her in the post above--whether alone or together with Andreq Dworkin may be another question, but I think she merits it alone.