Author: Alexander Tsesis
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2017-02-27
Judges, courts, and scholars in the United States agree that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, but there is much disagreement about its meaning. So what seems to be incontestable truth is riddled with disagreements about every day questions of decision making on matter such as whether people are entitled to government created programs, what rights are fundamental, the criteria for voting, the three branches of governments' several responsibilities, and even who should have the final say in defining the Constitution's meaning. Constitutional Ethos is a groundbreaking investigation into the fundamental principles of constitutional principle, meaning, and interpretation. It explores the core purposes of American representative democracy in light of historical sources, recent precedents, and contemporary debates. Alexander Tsesis argues that a central norm of U.S. law can be derived from the Declaration of Independence and Preamble. This book develops a theory of constitutional law structured on the public duty to protect individual rights for the general welfare. The maxim of constitutional governance synthesizes the protection of individual and public rights. The ideal is neither solely theoretical nor customary but tied to a firm foundation that the people then build upon by lobbying elected officials and petitioning appointed judges. Representative government has an interlinked obligation to the individual and the general welfare. This paradigm for responsible governance sets the baseline against which citizens can hold policy makers accountable to the structural and normative commitments of the Constitution. A pluralistic system must respect human dignity and govern for the betterment of the body politic. Those mandates set the terms for exercising legitimate power at the federal, state, and local levels to protect individual rights to achieve the common good of civil society. Tsesis demonstrates that ethos is binding on the conduct of all three branches of government and their officeholders. His argument challenges the more common U.S. perspective among academics and judges, who typically discount the existence of any objective constitutional value, regarding the document as a construct of social norms. To the contrary, Tsesis shows that the people established the terms of the nation's founding documents to protect universal, unalienable rights. The structure of government provides the mechanisms of those in a pluralistic state to set reasonable limitations for the betterment of society as a whole. Understanding the Constitution's special place in American legal culture is essential for resolving a host of contemporary issues; including, those involving marital, gender, and voting equalities. The state is a means of optimizing the well-being of individuals. Human productivity can best flourish in a society of equals, where talents can be brought to bear in the betterment of self and other members of the community. The Constitution does not create rights but protects those universal ideals of representative democracy first set out in the Declaration of Independence. It further grants authority to political institutions for the enforcement of policies and concrete laws for the betterment of society or some relevant segment of it. Many scholars with leanings in legal realism and process theory believe the authority of government is a social construct created by popular majorities; Tsesis convincingly demonstrates, to the contrary, that even those laws enacted by popular majorities are not authoritative unless they accord with a central maxim of constitutionalism, which is the protection of individual rights for the common good.
Author: Alexander Tsesis
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2012-06-01
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most influential documents in modern history-the inspiration for what would become the most powerful democracy in the world. Indeed, at every stage of American history, the Declaration has been a touchstone for evaluating the legitimacy of legal, social, and political practices. Not only have civil rights activists drawn inspiration from its proclamation of inalienable rights, but individuals decrying a wide variety of governmental abuses have turned for support to the document's enumeration of British tyranny. In this sweeping synthesis of the Declaration's impact on American life, ranging from 1776 to the present, Alexander Tsesis offers a deeply researched narrative that highlights the many surprising ways in which this document has influenced American politics, law, and society. The drafting of the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement-all are heavily indebted to the Declaration's principles of representative government. Tsesis demonstrates that from the founding on, the Declaration has played a central role in American political and social advocacy, congressional debates, and presidential decisions. He focuses on how successive generations internalized, adapted, and interpreted its meaning, but he also shines a light on the many American failures to live up to the ideals enshrined in the document. Based on extensive research from primary sources such as newspapers, diaries, letters, transcripts of speeches, and congressional records, For Liberty and Equality shows how our founding document shaped America through successive eras and why its influence has always been crucial to the nation and our way of life.
In 1758, Rousseau announced that he had adopted "vitam impendere vero" (dedicate life to truth) as a personal pledge. Despite the dramatic nature of this declaration, no scholar has yet approached Rousseau’s work through the lens of truth or truthseeking. What did it mean for Rousseau to lead a life dedicated to truth? This book presents Rousseau’s normative account of truthseeking, his account of what human beings must do if they hope to discover the truths essential to human happiness. Rousseau’s writings constitute a practical guide to these truths; they describe how he arrived at them and how others might as well. In reading Rousseau through the lens of truth, Neidleman traverses the entirety of Rousseau's corpus, and, in the process, reveals a series of symmetries among the disparate themes treated in those texts. The first section of the book lays out Rousseau’s general philosophy of truth and truthseeking. The second section follows Rousseau down four distinct pathways to truth: reverie, republicanism, religion, and reason. With a strong grounding in both the Anglophone and Francophone scholarship on Rousseau, this book will appeal to scholars across a broad range of disciplines.
Author: John Rawls
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Release Date: 2011-02-10
This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairness that John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice but changes its philosophical interpretation in a fundamental way. That previous work assumed what Rawls calls a "well-ordered society," one that is stable and relatively homogenous in its basic moral beliefs and in which there is broad agreement about what constitutes the good life. Yet in modern democratic society a plurality of incompatible and irreconcilable doctrines—religious, philosophical, and moral—coexist within the framework of democratic institutions. Recognizing this as a permanent condition of democracy, Rawls asks how a stable and just society of free and equal citizens can live in concord when divided by reasonable but incompatible doctrines? This edition includes the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," which outlines Rawls' plans to revise Political Liberalism, which were cut short by his death. "An extraordinary well-reasoned commentary on A Theory of Justice...a decisive turn towards political philosophy." —Times Literary Supplement
Cover artwork: Women Within by Bronwyn Bancroft - Courtesy Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative Shortlisted for the Stanner Award 2004. Larissa Behrendt attacks the chasm which has grown between Indigenous lives and aspirations in Australia, and the psychological terra nullius which continues, despite Mabo, to pervade so much of Australia's mythology and policy. She proposes longer term, aspirational initiatives leading to institutional change that will facilitate greater rights protection and the exercise of self-determination, including: a preamble to the Constitution a treaty the national self-image economic redistribution alternative institutional forms regional framework agreements a more energised politics Constitutional protection.
Author: Paul Horwitz
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2011-02-17
The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion, and the Constitution is a book for lawyers, law professors, law students, lawmakers, and any citizen who cares about church-state conflict and about the relationship between religion and liberal democracy. It provides a way to understand and balance the conflicts that inevitably arise when neighbors struggle with neighbors, and when liberal democracy tries to reach common ground with religious beliefs and practices. Paul Horwitz argues that the fundamental reason for the church-state conflict is our aversion to questions of religious truth. By trying to avoid the question of religious truth, law and religion has ultimately only reached a state of incoherence. He asserts that the answer to this dilemma is to take "the agnostic turn": to take an empathetic and imaginative approach to questions of religious truth, one that actually confronts rather than avoids these questions, but without reaching a final judgment about what that truth is. This book offers a sensitive and sensible approach to questions of church-state conflict, justifying what the courts have done in some cases and demanding new results in others. It explains how the church-state conflict extends beyond law and religion itself, and goes to some of the central questions at the heart of the troubled relationship between religion and liberal democracy in a post-9/11 era.
Author: Sean Wilentz
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: 2016-05-17
One of our most eminent historians reminds us of the commanding role party politics has played in America’s enduring struggle against economic inequality. “There are two keys to unlocking the secrets of American politics and American political history.” So begins The Politicians & the Egalitarians, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz’s bold new work of history. First, America is built on an egalitarian tradition. At the nation’s founding, Americans believed that extremes of wealth and want would destroy their revolutionary experiment in republican government. Ever since, that idea has shaped national political conflict and scored major egalitarian victories—from the Civil War and Progressive eras to the New Deal and the Great Society—along the way. Second, partisanship is a permanent fixture in America, and America is the better for it. Every major egalitarian victory in United States history has resulted neither from abandonment of partisan politics nor from social movement protests but from a convergence of protest and politics, and then sharp struggles led by principled and effective party politicians. There is little to be gained from the dream of a post-partisan world. With these two insights Sean Wilentz offers a crystal-clear portrait of American history, told through politicians and egalitarians including Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and W. E. B. Du Bois—a portrait that runs counter to current political and historical thinking. As he did with his acclaimed The Rise of American Democracy, Wilentz once again completely transforms our understanding of this nation’s political and moral character.
Author: Jonah Goldberg
Publisher: Penguin UK
Release Date: 2009-01-29
Today the word 'fascist' is usually an insult aimed at those on the right, from neocons to big business. But what does it really mean? What if the true heirs to fascism were actually those who thought of themselves as being terribly nice and progressive - the liberals? Jonah Goldberg's excoriating, opinion-driving, US bestseller explains why. Here he destroys long-held myths to reveal why the most insidious attemps to control our lives originate from the left, whether it's smoking bans or security cameras. Journeying through history and across culture, he uses surprising examples ranging from Woodrow Wilson's police state to the Clinton personality cult, the military chic of 60s' student radicals to Hollywood's totalitarian aesthetics, to show that it is modern progressivism - and not conservatism - that shares the same intellectual roots as fascism. This angry, funny, smart and contentious book looks behind the friendly face of the well-meaning liberal, and turns our preconceptions inside out.
Author: Robert Patrick Jones
Publisher: Robert P. Jones
Release Date: 2007
In Liberalism's Troubled Search for Equality, Robert P. Jones presents a penetrating examination of physician-assisted suicide that exposes unresolved tensions deep within liberal political theory. Jones asks why egalitarian liberal philosophers—most notably, Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls—support legalized physician-assisted suicide in direct opposition to groups of disadvantaged citizens they theoretically champion. Jones argues that egalitarian liberals ought to oppose physician-assisted suicide—at least until we find the political will to ensure access to health care for all. More broadly, Jones challenges progressives to find the heart of the liberal tradition not in allegedly neutral appeals to “choice” but in a renewed commitment to equality and social justice that welcomes public religious voices as allies. “Liberalism's Troubled Search for Equality is the most sophisticated analysis I have read that gives a social and philosophical context to the Oregon debate on assisted death. Jones's meaningful discussion of moral values in liberal political philosophy incorporates strong scholarship and an impressive use of interviews and ethnography.” —Courtney S. Campbell, Oregon State University "A fresh, challenging, and timely approach to the political intersections of religion and progressive politics. Cutting through the headlines on the contentious physician assisted suicide issue, Jones's intellectually rigorous focus on equality and justice as the key to shaping an authentic liberal response will have great appeal across political and religious lines. His approach offers precisely the right prescription for a stronger progressive movement." — Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Author: Michelle Alexander
Publisher: The New Press
Release Date: 2012-01-16
Genre: Social Science
The New Jim Crow was initially published with a modest first printing and reasonable expectations for a hard-hitting book on a tough topic. Now, ten-plus printings later, the long-awaited paperback version of the book Lani Guinier calls “brave and bold,” and Pulitzer Prize–winner David Levering Lewis calls “stunning,” will at last be available. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet, as legal star Michelle Alexander reveals, today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. Featured on The Tavis Smiley Show, Bill Moyers Journal, Democracy Now, and C-Span’s Washington Journal, The New Jim Crow has become an overnight phenomenon, sparking a much-needed conversation—including a recent mention by Cornel West on Real Time with Bill Maher&mdas;about ways in which our system of mass incarceration has come to resemble systems of racial control from a different era.
In One Nation, Two Cultures, one of today's most respected and articulate cultural critics gives us a penetrating examination of the gulf between the two sides of American society -- a divide that cuts across class, racial, ethnic, political, and sexual lines. While one side originated in the traditional idea of republican virtue, the other emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960s and has become the dominant culture of today. In clear and vigorous prose, Himmelfarb argues that while the dominant culture pervades journalism, academia, television, and film, a "dissident culture" continues to promote the values of family, a civil society, sexual morality, privacy, and patriotism. The clash between these two cultures affects all areas of American society. Despite her forceful critique, Himmelfarb sees encouraging signs for the future of American culture. She explores the place of religion, family, and the law in American life and proposes democratic remedies for the nation's moral and cultural diseases. Though there are many legitimate grievances against government, she contends, our citizenry cannot afford to delegitimize it. And she concludes that it is a tribute to Americans that, without serious social strife, we remain one nation even as we are divided into two cultures. One Nation, Two Cultures is a stimulating work, one sure to provoke lively discussion and controversy. From the Hardcover edition.