LAW & CRIME

Character: What It Means and Why it Matters

Oxford Univ. Sept. 2019. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9780190919870. $29.95. LAW
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Rhode (law, Stanford Univ.) specializes in legal ethics and is known for coining the term The ‘No-Problem’ Problem, originally referring to acknowledged but unrectified gender disparities, and for her book, The Beauty Bias, about how appearance discrimination overlooks women’s more competent traits. Here, the author discusses how the concept of character is understood and treated in law and politics. Rhode emphasizes that good character is taught by example, evidenced best, perhaps, in the book’s second half, which is devoted almost exclusively to exemplars of extraordinary moral character, including her muse, Thurgood Marshall. She mostly succeeds; however, her definition of character is often inconsistent with what psychological studies tell us about human behavior. For example, parole boards will assess character in determining eligibility despite that other factors, such as effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, have been shown to predict rates of recidivism. For more emphasis on the psychological science behind moral reasoning and behavior, see Christian B. Miller’s The Character Gap: How Good Are We??
VERDICT Recommended for academic libraries and readers interested in legal ethics.

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