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Author Topic: Social Engineers?  (Read 1617 times)

jgruber

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Social Engineers?
« on: March 24, 2004, 10:24:50 AM »
The Nashville Bar Journal (March 2004) said that Judge Monte Watkins, recently elected to the Criminal Court - Division V in Tennessee, "describes lawyers as social engineers."  They quote him as saying, "The law is really a social science.  We determine people's behaviors and develop laws based on that.  Sexual harrassment is an example.  A few years ago, men would say things to and about women that today they would be much more reluctant to say.  Part of that is because our laws have responded to behaviors on this issue."

What do you think of the concept of lawyers as social engineers?



romancingthestone

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2004, 10:30:38 AM »
I think it sounds frightening. 

And also pretty arrogant (as usual for lawyers).  A comment like that takes a top-down approach, suggesting that lawyers are the motivators for social change, instead of opportunists who exploit (not necessarily negative) changing social norms.  It erases the entire history of the feminist movement and the many brave individuals who decided to file suits and go public with what they suffered(and legislators that made harrassment illegal).

jgruber

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2004, 02:37:24 PM »
I think it would appeal to those who want the law to be precise, to have definite solutions to problems, etc.

romancingthestone

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2004, 03:39:38 PM »
It's a grassroots vs. elites issue (and a chicken-or-the-egg issue.  does life imitate art or art life?  does the court enact social change or respond to it?)... look at the civil rights movement.  yes there were favorable and important and even radical court decisions, but only after years of extreme pressure from activists and ordinary folks who refused to take it any more.  the court does exist in an evolving cultural context, and is as affected by it as it is effective to it, if not more so.  i'm not sure how this responds to your last comment about wanting the law to be precise or have definite solutions.  I'm not sure what that means.  It sounds more to me to appeal to people who want to believe that the grassroots humbly follows the elites, rather than the grassroots dragging the elites kicking and screaming to progress.

jgruber

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2004, 03:48:51 PM »
I'm not sure how I feel about the concept myself.  I'm just trying to explore it a little.  I did not consider the aspect you've brought up.

But here's something from the devil's advocate.

Perhaps these social engineers feel they are just implementing what ordinary folk are asking for, thus the idea of the engineer  The people decide what should happen and we the social engineers or technicians put their desires into action through law and court decisions.


 :)


It's a grassroots vs. elites issue (and a chicken-or-the-egg issue.  does life imitate art or art life?  does the court enact social change or respond to it?)... look at the civil rights movement.  yes there were favorable and important and even radical court decisions, but only after years of extreme pressure from activists and ordinary folks who refused to take it any more.  the court does exist in an evolving cultural context, and is as affected by it as it is effective to it, if not more so.  i'm not sure how this responds to your last comment about wanting the law to be precise or have definite solutions.  I'm not sure what that means.  It sounds more to me to appeal to people who want to believe that the grassroots humbly follows the elites, rather than the grassroots dragging the elites kicking and screaming to progress.

romancingthestone

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2004, 03:53:50 PM »
I could buy that... what would that make "the people?"  Or maybe it's not that complete a metaphor.  I certainly hope that's the case -- it's what I'm trying to do, anyway.  I think of law as a tool in peacemaking and social reform.  Not the entirety of it, just a tool.  Which would feed the concept of lawyer as engineer. 

dta

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2004, 04:23:26 PM »
I wouldn't call lawyers "social engineers" so much as those charged with helping to codify into law the beliefs and opinions of the citizenry. It is the citizen body that decided, after more women began working, that it is unacceptable to behave in particular ways toward women in the workplace. Lawyers didn't make this determination. They merely assisted in codifying into law this judgement made by the public. It is our elected representatives at the local, state, and federal level who craft law. Lawyers assist in their capacity as advisors to these representatives and as legal practitioners who bring cases before the courts and in so doing help courts more finely define the laws the legislature has passed.

I think the moniker "social engineers" gives lawyers way too much credit. We, the citizenry, are our own social engineers. Lawyers just help us to articulate precisely what we want. That's all.

ajlynnette

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2004, 11:51:40 PM »
i think i agree more w/dt. lawyers, to me, are more like catalysts of sorts like those in chemical and biochemical reactions, for example. in order for some reactions to work or be put into motion to get to the desired end product, a catalyst of sorts is needed. they're not what determines the outcome of that reaction, but they are what's needed at times to induce the process needed to bring about that outcome.

i hope i didn't just confuse anybody. lol but i hope you get the jist of what i'm saying. so maybe that judge should look at attorneys from a natural/physical science p.o.v. instead of a physical/social one? lol thoughts?

aj :)

jgruber

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2004, 11:21:07 AM »
But as implementers aren't lawyers in a more powerful position to influence the outcome?


I wouldn't call lawyers "social engineers" so much as those charged with helping to codify into law the beliefs and opinions of the citizenry. It is the citizen body that decided, after more women began working, that it is unacceptable to behave in particular ways toward women in the workplace. Lawyers didn't make this determination. They merely assisted in codifying into law this judgement made by the public. It is our elected representatives at the local, state, and federal level who craft law. Lawyers assist in their capacity as advisors to these representatives and as legal practitioners who bring cases before the courts and in so doing help courts more finely define the laws the legislature has passed.

I think the moniker "social engineers" gives lawyers way too much credit. We, the citizenry, are our own social engineers. Lawyers just help us to articulate precisely what we want. That's all.

bobfett33

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Re: Social Engineers?
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2004, 12:34:17 PM »
We, the citizenry, are our own social engineers.

BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!  The citizenry are social engineers?  Let me preface by saying that I think hardly any lawyers are social engineers, either, but the citiznery???

If the citizenry were social engineers, we'd all be stuck with reality tv for the rest of our lives... oh, wait, that'll probably already happen.  Anyway, the point is that the average citizen is no more a social engineer than he is an electrical engineer.  Only certain kinds of people are social engineers - and many of them may hold law degrees...

But, don't fall into the logical fallicy of thinking since a good portion of social engineers have JDs, that must mean that a good portion of JDs are social engineers - there are WAY more laywers out there than true social engineers.

Now, it's what I want to do, and I'm just using the JD, legal education, the bar, etc. as a tool to do it.  But, I don't think that the average JD will be any more of a social engineer just because of their JD.  If you're not a radical going into law school, you certainly won't be one coming out.