Laski, Harold J. (1893–1950)

Author:Dennis J. Mahoney

Page 1563

British political scientist and Socialist party leader Harold Joseph Laski influenced American constitutional thought both through his public writings and through his friendship with leading American jurists and political leaders. Laski studied political science at Oxford University under Ernest Barker, and from 1916 to 1920 was an instructor in government at Harvard University. While teaching at Harvard he met, and began a twenty-year correspondence with, Justice OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, and he established an even longer-lasting friendship with Professor (later Justice) FELIX FRANKFURTER. He also numbered among his friends and correspondents President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT and Justice BENJAMIN N. CARDOZO.

From 1920 until his death in 1950 Laski taught at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He continued to correspond with his American friends and frequently visited the United States. He affected American jurisprudence mainly by influencing those whose general approach to legal and constitutional problems is called LEGAL REALISM.

Although in his early books, written in America, he had embraced a pluralist doctrine of politics, Laski had by 1931 adopted the Marxist theory of history as class struggle, and thereafter he attempted to formulate a non-Soviet Marxist political theory. He never lost interest in American politics, and his last book was The American Democracy, a Marxist...

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