American realism is a school of jurisprudence that emerged in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by a focus on the practical and empirical aspects of law, rather than on abstract legal principles or ideals. Realists believe that law should be based on the actual experiences and needs of society, rather than on theoretical constructs or formal rules.
One of the key figures in the development of American realism was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a Supreme Court justice and legal scholar who is often considered the father of legal realism. Holmes argued that the law should be understood as a tool for achieving practical goals, rather than as a system of abstract principles. He believed that judges should base their decisions on the facts of a particular case, rather than on preconceived notions of what the law should be.
Another influential realist was Jerome Frank, who argued that law was not a science, but rather a social and political institution that was shaped by the values and interests of those who wield power within it. Frank also argued that the law was not objective or neutral, but rather a reflection of the biases and values of those who create and enforce it.
Realists also reject the idea of legal formalism, which holds that the law can be understood and applied based on a set of fixed rules and principles. Instead, realists believe that the law is a constantly evolving and flexible system that must be interpreted and applied in the context of specific cases and circumstances.
Despite its criticisms of traditional legal theories, American realism has had a significant impact on legal scholarship and the development of the law in the United States. It has influenced the way that courts approach cases and has shaped the way that lawyers and legal scholars think about the law. Today, realism remains an important and influential perspective in the field of jurisprudence, and its ideas continue to be debated and discussed by legal scholars and practitioners. Overall, American realism emphasizes the practicality and flexibility of the law, and it challenges traditional approaches to legal theory and interpretation.