Working Law: Courts, Corporations, and Symbolic Civil Rights. By Lauren Edelman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Date01 March 2018
Published date01 March 2018
Book Reviews
Jennifer Balint, Editor
Working Law: Courts, Corporations, and Symbolic Civil Rights.By
Lauren Edelman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.
Reviewed by Carroll Seron, Department of Criminology, Law & Society,
University of California Irvine
On October 5, 2017, The New York Times ran a front-page story,
“Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for
Decades”; the investigative piece documents a pattern of sexual
harassment by Mr. Weinstein followed by at least eight settlements
with various women. We have read similar stories in high tech,
politics, journalism, academia, and other industries. In telling their
stories, many of these brave women report that they went to their
company’s Human Resources (HR) department and found the
experience remarkably unsatisfactory. For those of us who have
been following Lauren Edelman’s scholarship, the hollow and
largely symbolic reaction by HR to claims of discrimination should
come as little surprise.
Based on decades of research, Edelman’s new book, Working
Law: Courts, Corporations, and Symbolic Civil Rights, concludes on the
rather pessimistic note that “we live not in a post-civil rights society
but rather in a symbolic civil rights society” (216). Wor kin g La w is a
bold and creative contribution to law and social science, social psy-
chology, organizational theory, contemporary American history, and
political science. Like many of her generation, Edelman was deeply
affected by the aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement. Her schol-
arship grows out of this commitment and takes as its starting point
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) with a specific focus on workplace
discrimination on the basis of race and gender. Fifty years after pas-
sage of the CRA, research consistently shows that minorities and
women have not achieved parity in the labor market as measured by
earnings or mobility; indeed, since 1980 the gap has increased
(Stainback and Tomaskovic-Devy 2012). An impressivebody of social
science scholarship documents the ways in which discrimination
persists through structures that are seemingly neutral but produce
discriminatory outcomes, cultures that valorize some skills over
others, and stereotypes of the “good,” reliable often white male
Law & Society Review, Volume 52, Number 1 (2018)
C2018 Law and Society Association. All rights reserved.

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