24 August 2017

The Prescience of Harold Berman

On pages 83-84 in his magisterial "Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition" (1983), Berman wrote:
In the late twentieth century the prehistory of the Western legal tradition takes on special significance. Western society during the past two generations has been characterized increasingly by fundamental divisions of race, class, the sexes, and the generations. Bonds of faith have grown weak and bonds of kinship and of soil have given way to vague and abstract [but increasingly assertive] nationalisms. With the breakdown of stable communities, the West no longer has confidence in law as a way of protecting spiritual values against corrupting social, economic, and political forces. There is, of course, no returning to the past--least of all, to the remote beginnings of Western civilization. Yet it is important, in a time of skepticism, for the skeptics, above all, to ask by what historical route Western man has come to his present predicament, and to confront their own nostalgia for an earlier age [that did not exist, or a secular age to come that will never arrive] ... .

The words in [brackets] are my interpolations.

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