September 14, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- The study of law is, and ought to be, one of the liberal arts-and "law just might be saved from the lawyers," if it were taught to more undergraduate college students, according to Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and in a forthcoming book, Law in the Liberal Arts ($45, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2004), Sarat argues that the liberal arts needs the study of law, but also that the American legal system can learn from the liberal arts.
"For legal scholarship," writes Sarat in the CHE, the disregard for law as a liberal art "means that the work of understanding law is generally coupled with the lawyer's need to understand how to use it or with the policy maker's desire to reform it, impoverishing our ability to see the complex connections of law, culture, and society in all their variety and to connect theorizing about law with the humanities and social sciences."
"In the liberal arts," Sarat continues, "the failure to more fully articulate and institutionalize legal scholarship deprives them of a subject of enormous richness and interest. Systematic study of law advances the goals of a liberal education because of the importance of law in culture and society, as well as the capacity of legal study to engage and enhance the intellectual, analytic, and imaginative capacities of undergraduates."
Sarat has taught at Amherst since 1974, and is the author of When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition. He has served as President of the Law and Society Association and of the Association for the Study of law, Culture, and the Humanities.