Age discrimination and its corollary, mandatory retirement, are modern legal issues, barely a generation old. In this concise and readable report, Lawrence Friedman explores the apparently sudden emergence of a field of law that pertains mainly to the elderly and middle-aged.
Friedman traces the brief but fascinating social, legislative, and judicial history of age discrimination law and of the laws addressing mandatory retirement. Both histories contain paradoxes and contradictions; both seem simultaneously to make an issue of "age" and to demand a kind of age neutrality, reflecting broad recent changes in American culture. Both histories are intricately bound up with other legal issues—age discrimination with race and sex discrimination; mandatory retirement with the development of pension plans and other social insurance systems. Friedman speculates on the impact of these new laws, illuminating through his analysis the complex phenomenon of "legalization," or the penetration of legal norms into ever more areas of life.
Finally, Friedman offers a provocative conclusion in which he suggests that laws on age discrimination and retirement—laws that appear to have a less extensive social background than one would expect—may in fact be "stand-in" laws for vague but powerful social norms not yet recognized in the legal system.
Your Time Will Come is the first new volume in a special paperback series entitled Social Research Perspectives: Occasional Reports on Current Topics. These Perspectives represent a revival of the Social Science Frontiers series published by the Foundation from 1969 to 1977 and will again offer short, timely, and accessible reports on various aspects of social science research.
LAWRENCE M. FRIEDMAN is Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law at Stanford University.
A Volume in the the Russell Sage Foundation's Social Science Perspectives Series