Critical Race Theory
Related Legal Movements
One of a group of progressive movements in the law, critical race theory bears close relations with a forerunner movement—critical legal studies—that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s and was still alive in the early 2000s. Building on the insights of the early-twentieth-century legal realists, critical legal studies scholars attacked the ideas of legal determinacy—that every legal problem has exactly one correct solution—and autonomy, the notion that law exists in a realm by itself. Instead, the critical legal studies scholars urged, law bears a close relation to economics, politics, social science, and even art and aesthetics. Critical race theorists build on all these ideas, as well as on the Continental school of philosophy from which many critical legal studies scholars draw inspiration.
Critical race theory also builds on some of the key ideas of radical feminism, including hierarchy, patriarchy, and the notion that everyday terms, categories, and roles advance implicit agendas and encode power relations in a way that benefits those in charge. The movement also learned from revisionist historians, such as Charles Beard and Patricia Limerick, who examined history from hitherto unexplored perspectives, such as those of women, workers, and members of outsider groups. Finally, critical race theory scholars such as Derrick Bell and Richard Delgado draw from neo-Marxist theory in exploring how race relations in the United States reflect economic struggles, shifting labor needs, and the clash of interest groups.