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Rejecting the Fruits of Action: The Regeneration of the Waste Land’s Legal System
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  • Phillip J. Closius, University of Baltimore School of Law
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In his greatest work, The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot presents a picture of twentieth century Western civilization as a culture which has lost its essential values and has come undone from its historical moorings. Material wealth has become the focal point of society and its inhabitants. In such a value distorted context, human relationships are devoid of meaning. Honest communication and a meaningful life for the soul and intellect are lost in a dehumanizing daily grind. Religious, communal, and even familial values are subverted to a culturally encouraged drive for personal gain. In this respect, modern Western civilization in general, and America in particular, embodies the world of The Waste Land even more than the Europe and America of 1922 with which Eliot was familiar.

The systemic acceptance of result orientation and the consequent predominance of economic efficiencies and material wealth have not only corrupted society in general, but have also devalued modern concepts of the law in particular. Law in today's America is dominated by excessive litigation and a general disbelief that justice is evenly dispensed. The contemporary legal system has also become alienated from the historically based values which both created it and gave it meaning. Judges, lawyers, and the law itself have been adversely affected by this evolving devaluation. The pernicious influence of result orientation manifests itself in the modern American legal system through its influence on the judiciary in at least two significant ways: (1) legal theories which influence the intellectual climate within which judges operate and (2) the manner by which society instructs judges to resolve cases -- precedent or stare decisis. Both areas can be significantly reformed by the rejection of result orientation and its goal of material wealth and by the acceptance of a motivational process dedicated to the values of charity, compassion, and self-denial.

Citation Information
Rejecting the Fruits of Action: The Regeneration of the Waste Land’s Legal System, 71 Notre Dame L. Rev. 127 (1995)