LOUIS D. BRANDEIS AND THE PROGRESSIVE TRADITION by Melvin I. Urofsky

LOUIS D. BRANDEIS AND THE PROGRESSIVE TRADITION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although famous as the first Jew to sit on the Supreme Court, Brandeis' reputation rests with much more. Historian Urofsky (Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) runs through the Brandeis dossier: born to a Louisville Jewish family, Brandeis was a brilliant law student at Harvard where he began to earn his reputation as a legal technician, and followed this with the establishment of a highly sucessful legal career in Boston. All that was simple, if odd, enough, but it was Brandeis' championing of social causes that brought him into inence. As a lawyer, Brandeis developed a penchant for acting as an ""advisor"" in a dispute, instead of as a simple advocate, and he began acting as such for early consumer groups in litigation concerning public utilities, industrial insurance, and union strikes (like the New York garment workers' strike of 1910). The advisor role fit in with Brandeis' belief in a competitive economy, where no side could or should predominate, and his attachment to competition and horror of the ""evils of bigness"" in economy and government allied him permanently with what came to be known as the Progressives. Urofsky covers all this with some haste but little insight. This is true, too, of the two big accomplishments Urofsky seeks to highlight: the Supreme Court career which began after an intense Senate debate over confirmation, and Brandeis' role as a founder of the American Zionist movement. Both of these roles involved Brandeis in controversy, but Urofsky takes the edge off by always siding with his man and casually dismissing the opposition. Among the latter was Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, who derided Brandeis for his less than complete commitment to the cause (Brandeis confined himself to raising money and favoring a mixed economy in Palestine, while remaining on the Bench); but whatever truth there may have been in Weizmann's charges gets short shrift. In sum, Brandeis could do no wrong, and Urofsky has missed the chance to say something--anything--interesting about the man or the dilemmas of Progressivism. The book suffices as a basic biography only.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown