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Minding the Gap: Legal Ideals and Strategic Action in State Legislative Hearings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018


A recurring theme of sociolegal studies is how legal procedures function to reproduce social inequality by disadvantaging less powerful groups. However, there is little research about how disadvantaged groups achieve occasional victories in legal settings. Using transcripts of state legislative committee hearings in which birth activists seek certification or licensure for independent midwifery, I identify and investigate five ways in which legal ideals structure interaction and rhetoric in legislative hearings. While these ideals are instantiated in ways that disadvantage less powerful groups, activists can be seen adapting to this context by developing strategies to play law's ideals to their advantage. Such findings develop our understanding of how the gap between law's ideals and legal procedures can provide opportunities for collective activity seeking social change.

Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 2008 

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