Leora Auslander

90 Texas L. Rev. 163

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Professor Auslander reviews Inga Markovits’s book, Justice in Lüritz: Experiencing Socialist Law in East Germany. As the title indicates, the book sets out to account for the workings of the law under socialist governance in the German Democratic Republic.  Auslander focuses her review on two features of the book that make it unique and significant. The first is a lack of direct references to primary sources. While maybe to the chagrin of traditional historians, Auslander notes that adherence to strict citation practice is not appropriate for the type of study that Markovits engages in; rather, since the purpose of Justice in Lüritz is to convey how people experienced the legal system, the appropriate analogy is to sociology and anthropology—two fields where direct citations to primary sources are often unavailable. Further, had Markovits limited herself to sources that could have been “properly documented,” Auslander argues our understanding of East German law would have been greatly diminished.

The second feature that Auslander notes is the book’s apparent indifference to other scholarly works. Rather than set out to prove another scholar wrong, or even contribute to the scholarly debate, the book emerges very powerfully as the product of individual curiosity and determination. Auslander believes that by taking this approach, Markovits not only avoided potential pitfalls that often emerge in academic writing but also enabled her book to speak to a broader audience. While Auslander does regret some of the implications of this approach, she concludes that Justice in Lüritz succeeds in providing an extraordinarily vivid and complex picture of how people experienced socialist law in East Germany.