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Law in America:
Although, in the eyes of many, the law "moves slowly and sluggishly" behind society's advances, Lawrence M. Friedman, in Law in America, a historical overview from colonial times to the present, posits that this is an "illusion." As surely as culture creates law, law creates culture. The American legal system--a bubbling mélange of common ("judge-made") and civil (derived from codes) law--is a "complicated beast," born of thousands of political entities. Originally a "crude and stripped down" descendant of English law, American law in the 19th century was often an instrument of "economic promotion." In the 20th century, with the rise of a national economy, an evermore heterogeneous population, waning federalism, and the rise of what Friedman calls the "administrative-welfare state," the law daily reached further, into the jurisdiction of civil rights of all stripes, product liability, malpractice, and environmental and antitrust considerations. Friedman's chapters on the colonial period and family law are strong, while his look at the contemporary legal climate drifts toward a general discussion of political and social mores. --H. O'Billovich [via]