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Legal Change, The Eighty-Third Cleveland-Marshall Fund Visiting Scholar Lecture


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The Eighty-Third Cleveland-Marshall Fund Visiting Scholar Lecture


This Essay will proceed in the following steps. First, I want to propose a preliminary definition of legal change. As I hope to make clear, there are technical and non-technical dimensions to the definition. Second, I want to offer a preliminary definition of social change and social movements. Third, I want to build on the analysis of the late Professor Thomas Stoddard in which he sketched out a relationship between what he calls "rule shifting" and "culture shifting."' Finally, I want to describe what Professor Lani Guinier and I have come to call "demosprudence." I appreciate that it is not a word in common usage, but I hope to demonstrate how it is rooted in our commitment to a broad form of democratic legitimacy. Demosprudence is a philosophy, a methodology and a practice that systematically views lawmaking from the perspective of popular mobilizations, such as social movements and other sustained forms of collective action that serve to make formal institutions, including those that regulate legal culture, more representative and thus more democratic. It highlights the democratic wisdom and lawmaking power of social movements. The study of demosprudence is the study of the lawmaking and democracy enhancing effects of social movements as they influence and are disciplined by democratic practice.