Prominent Harvard Law School professors Randall L. Kennedy, Martha L. Minow, and Cass R. Sunstein recently founded The American Journal of Law and Equality, a publication committed to investigating equality — and the lack thereof — in American society.
The journal will publish annually and the three professors will edit each issue, a distinction from most law reviews, which are traditionally edited by students.
Minow — who is a University professor, the highest faculty honor at Harvard — said the idea originated from Sunstein, another University professor who is currently on leave from the Law School serving as senior counselor in the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security.
Minow added she and her colleagues felt “strongly” that the journal should focus on the United States and that it “actually bridges theory and practice.”
Kennedy said civic unrest that spread throughout America over the summer inspired the professors to found the journal.
“People knew about various inequities in American life, but it certainly put the spotlight in an especially poignant way on various inequities in our society,” Kennedy said. “You had the pandemic, you had the continuing and highly publicized episodes of police malfeasance, often racist police malfeasance, the reaction to that in the eruption of protests all over the country. And all of this is going on in the shadow of the impending election.”
The journal’s first issue, which is expected to be released this summer, will feature essays responding to aspects of Harvard Government professor Michael J. Sandel’s recent book entitled “The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?” The three co-founders will also contribute an article each.
Sandel wrote in an emailed statement that he was “deeply grateful” to the co-founders of the journal for making his book the “subject of a symposium in the inaugural issue.” The book argues that despite meritocracy’s appeal, it has contributed to inequality in society and fueled backlash against elites.
“The editors have enlisted an all-star cast of 14 scholars of differing perspectives to respond to the book,” Sandel wrote. “I look forward to responding to their essays, and learning from them.”
Kennedy said he was inspired to launch the journal to contribute to the conversation started by preexisting publications.
“All of the editors have written for all sorts of publications, and all of us feel gratitude and admiration,” Kennedy said. “Part of that gratitude and administration prompts me to, in a sense, emulate what they’re doing.”
Kennedy said the journal is soliciting work from a diverse spectrum of individuals beyond legal scholars and academics.
“Law professors are certainly very welcome, but so are political scientists, so are sociologists, so are anthropologists, so are philosophers, so are people who are outside of academia,” Kennedy said. “Our pages are open to thoughtful commentary, whatever the source of that commentary.”
Sandel said the journal’s founding was both timely and necessary, and described his colleagues as optimal scholars to lead the nascent publication.
“At a time when issues of equality and inequality demand new thinking, launching this journal is an inspired idea,” Sandel wrote. “The three founding editors are ideally equipped to bring multiple voices into dialogue — from the legal academy and beyond.”
Kennedy said he hopes the journal will, over time, make “interesting, provocative, useful, illuminating” observations about the state of equality.
“I can’t help but think it’s a good thing when people get together, pool their efforts, and try to bring the world thoughtful discussion about subjects,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get enough of that.”
—Staff writer Emmy M. Cho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.