Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Power, Prose, and PurseLaw, Literature, and Economic Transformations$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Alison LaCroix, Saul Levmore, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190873455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190873455.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 September 2020

The Second New Deal and the Fourth Courtroom Wall

The Second New Deal and the Fourth Courtroom Wall

Law, Labor, and Liberty in The Cradle Will Rock

(p.267) 11 The Second New Deal and the Fourth Courtroom Wall
Power, Prose, and Purse

Laura Weinrib

Oxford University Press

This essay explores Marc Blitzstein’s 1937 labor opera, The Cradle Will Rock, as an assault on legal legitimacy. Since its famous first production—a pared-down performance in which actors delivered their parts from the house, improvised when the WPA canceled the scheduled opening of the controversial project—critics have emphasized Cradle’s indebtedness to the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, to whom Blitzstein dedicated the work. Consistent with Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, Blitzstein distances the audience from Cradle’s characters, substituting rational understanding for unreflective empathy. Like Brecht, he employs this theatrical device to expose the cultural and economic underpinnings of familiar social practices, including capitalism. Imported to the US context, the Brechtian reimagining of theatrical conventions resonated with a corresponding attack on formal legal justice. At the height of the New Deal’s crisis of legal legitimacy, Cradle depicts a judicial system baldly beholden to wealth and property. The anti-union steel magnate at the show’s center bribes and manipulates journalists, professionals, and public officials to promote his concept of “liberty,” namely, freedom from organized labor. By amplifying the effects of economic interests on legal outcomes while undermining empathy with the characters who facilitate and legitimate repression, Cradle invites the audience to consider its own complicity in law’s injustice.

Keywords:   Blitzstein, The Cradle Will Rock, labor, legal legitimacy, capitalism, New Deal, union, law

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .