The Magazine


Mar 30, 1998, Vol. 3, No. 28 • By JEREMY RABKIN
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Does this tell more about the hypocrisy of the law professors or about the silliness of their affected postmodernism? Campos doesn't say, retreating instead to the pose of the outsider: "If it were my job to parcel out, on the basis of circular justifications and instrumental guesses, a daily portion of the violence of the state, I, too, might become extremely adept at maintaining the intense levels of sophisticated double-think that get the normatively committed law professor through the day." And since Campos proudly conceives himself not to be "normatively committed," he can get through his day with his sense of humor intact.

In fact, however, those who pride themselves on their disdain for the " normative commitments" of justice often betray a secret kinship with those who demand justice "even if the heavens fall." Both stand aloof from the challenges of life in this world. Both postures are, in that sense, academic luxuries. And these days, neither is quite serious.

In his column in the Denver Post, published in late January, Campos held that letting the independent counsel make such a to-do about the Lewinsky case was, after all, just another symptom of "jurismania." That's consistent with the argument that we shouldn't let obsessions with perfect justice threaten more immediate, practical concerns. But it is also consistent with world-weary cynicism and postmodern ennui. And it is even consistent with the fact that, as Jurismania acknowledges, "the vast majority of law professors are left-liberal Democrats who can be counted on to vote, however grudgingly, for Bill Clinton." For all his iconoclastic posturing, Campos has more in common with that "vast majority" than he likes to admit. But his Jurismania remains in many respects a witty and instructive book.

Jeremy Rabkin teaches in the department of government at Cornell University.