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The Federalist Society's Legal Classics Revisited series returns to the writing of Professor Alexander Bickel and his last work, The Morality of Consent. In a July 11, 2016 Teleforum, we discussed Bickel's Least Dangerous Branch. The Morality of Consent is far shorter and was in manuscript form when Bickel died. Based on notes of magazine articles and lectures rather than on the author's plan for a single text, the book is unified by its larger themes rather than a conventional outline.

Professor Bickel viewed the mid-20th century as a time when the American legal system was challenged by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam protests, and a national reaction led by Richard Nixon. Each raised questions about obedience to the law as it existed. These events from generations ago led Bickel to consider the process by which Americans made law and came to accept and obey it. He worked hard to define the paradox presented by civil disobedience which seemed to be established within American law and yet carried the potential to destroy both law and ordered society. Contemporary readers will find the effort instructive and successful, at least in part. But questions remain. Bickel addressed other topics which "touch and concern" his questions, his misgivings, and his faith in the enterprise of Law. Bickel grappled with questions that resist final answers in each chapter of his book, a legal classic worth a visit in our own day.


  • Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine
  • James A. Haynes, Former Attorney and Alternate Judge, U.S. Dept of Labor, Employees Compensation Appeals Board
  • John J. Park, Jr., Of Counsel, Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP