Constitutional Faith

Princeton University Press
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This book examines the "constitutional faith" that has, since 1788, been a central component of American "civil religion." By taking seriously the parallel between wholehearted acceptance of the Constitution and religious faith, Sanford Levinson opens up a host of intriguing questions about what it means to be American. While some view the Constitution as the central component of an American religion that serves to unite the social order, Levinson maintains that its sacred role can result in conflict, fragmentation, and even war. To Levinson, the Constitution's value lies in the realm of the discourse it sustains: a uniquely American form of political rhetoric that allows citizens to grapple with every important public issue imaginable.

In a new afterword, Levinson looks at the deepening of constitutional worship and attributes the current widespread frustrations with the government to the static nature of the Constitution.

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About the author

Sanford Levinson is professor of law and government at the University of Texas Law School and a frequent visitor at the Harvard and Yale law schools. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many books include Our Undemocratic Constitution.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 22, 2011
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9781400839872
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / General
Law / Constitutional
Political Science / Constitutions
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Sanford Levinson
“Diversity” has become a mantra within discussions of university admissions policies and many other arenas of American society. In the essays collected here, Sanford Levinson, a leading scholar of constitutional law and American government, wrestles with various notions of diversity. He begins by explaining why he finds the concept to be almost useless as a genuine guide to public policy. Discussing affirmative action in university admissions, including the now famous University of Michigan Law School case, he argues both that there may be good reasons to use preferences—including race and ethnicity—and that these reasons have relatively little to do with any cogently developed theory of diversity. Distinguished by Levinson’s characteristic open-mindedness and willingness to tease out the full implications of various claims, each of these nine essays, written over the past decade, develops a case study focusing on a particular aspect of public life in a richly diverse, and sometimes bitterly divided, society.

Although most discussions of diversity have focused on race and ethnicity, Levinson is particularly interested in religious diversity and its implications. Why, he asks, do arguments for racial and ethnic diversity not also counsel a concern to achieve religious diversity within a student body? He considers the propriety of judges drawing on their religious views in making legal decisions and the kinds of questions Senators should feel free to ask nominees to the federal judiciary who have proclaimed the importance of their religion in structuring their own lives. In exploring the sense in which Sandy Koufax can be said to be a “Jewish baseball player,” he engages in broad reflections on professional identity. He asks whether it is desirable, or even possible, to subordinate merely "personal" aspects of one’s identity—religion, political viewpoints, gender—to the impersonal demands of the professional role. Wrestling with Diversity is a powerful interrogation of the assumptions and contradictions underlying public life in a multicultural world.

Sanford Levinson
In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later. In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different--and perhaps better--than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.
Mark Tushnet
The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution offers a comprehensive overview and introduction to the U.S. Constitution from the perspectives of history, political science, law, rights, and constitutional themes, while focusing on its development, structures, rights, and role in the U.S. political system and culture. This Handbook enables readers within and beyond the U.S. to develop a critical comprehension of the literature on the Constitution, along with accessible and up-to-date analysis. The historical essays included in this Handbook cover the Constitution from 1620 right through the Reagan Revolution to the present. Essays on political science detail how contemporary citizens in the United States rely extensively on political parties, interest groups, and bureaucrats to operate a constitution designed to prevent the rise of parties, interest-group politics and an entrenched bureaucracy. The essays on law explore how contemporary citizens appear to expect and accept the exertions of power by a Supreme Court, whose members are increasingly disconnected from the world of practical politics. Essays on rights discuss how contemporary citizens living in a diverse multi-racial society seek guidance on the meaning of liberty and equality, from a Constitution designed for a society in which all politically relevant persons shared the same race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Lastly, the essays on themes explain how in a "globalized" world, people living in the United States can continue to be governed by a constitution originally meant for a society geographically separated from the rest of the "civilized world." Whether a return to the pristine constitutional institutions of the founding or a translation of these constitutional norms in the present is possible remains the central challenge of U.S. constitutionalism today.
Sanford Levinson
“Diversity” has become a mantra within discussions of university admissions policies and many other arenas of American society. In the essays collected here, Sanford Levinson, a leading scholar of constitutional law and American government, wrestles with various notions of diversity. He begins by explaining why he finds the concept to be almost useless as a genuine guide to public policy. Discussing affirmative action in university admissions, including the now famous University of Michigan Law School case, he argues both that there may be good reasons to use preferences—including race and ethnicity—and that these reasons have relatively little to do with any cogently developed theory of diversity. Distinguished by Levinson’s characteristic open-mindedness and willingness to tease out the full implications of various claims, each of these nine essays, written over the past decade, develops a case study focusing on a particular aspect of public life in a richly diverse, and sometimes bitterly divided, society.

Although most discussions of diversity have focused on race and ethnicity, Levinson is particularly interested in religious diversity and its implications. Why, he asks, do arguments for racial and ethnic diversity not also counsel a concern to achieve religious diversity within a student body? He considers the propriety of judges drawing on their religious views in making legal decisions and the kinds of questions Senators should feel free to ask nominees to the federal judiciary who have proclaimed the importance of their religion in structuring their own lives. In exploring the sense in which Sandy Koufax can be said to be a “Jewish baseball player,” he engages in broad reflections on professional identity. He asks whether it is desirable, or even possible, to subordinate merely "personal" aspects of one’s identity—religion, political viewpoints, gender—to the impersonal demands of the professional role. Wrestling with Diversity is a powerful interrogation of the assumptions and contradictions underlying public life in a multicultural world.

Mark Tushnet
The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution offers a comprehensive overview and introduction to the U.S. Constitution from the perspectives of history, political science, law, rights, and constitutional themes, while focusing on its development, structures, rights, and role in the U.S. political system and culture. This Handbook enables readers within and beyond the U.S. to develop a critical comprehension of the literature on the Constitution, along with accessible and up-to-date analysis. The historical essays included in this Handbook cover the Constitution from 1620 right through the Reagan Revolution to the present. Essays on political science detail how contemporary citizens in the United States rely extensively on political parties, interest groups, and bureaucrats to operate a constitution designed to prevent the rise of parties, interest-group politics and an entrenched bureaucracy. The essays on law explore how contemporary citizens appear to expect and accept the exertions of power by a Supreme Court, whose members are increasingly disconnected from the world of practical politics. Essays on rights discuss how contemporary citizens living in a diverse multi-racial society seek guidance on the meaning of liberty and equality, from a Constitution designed for a society in which all politically relevant persons shared the same race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Lastly, the essays on themes explain how in a "globalized" world, people living in the United States can continue to be governed by a constitution originally meant for a society geographically separated from the rest of the "civilized world." Whether a return to the pristine constitutional institutions of the founding or a translation of these constitutional norms in the present is possible remains the central challenge of U.S. constitutionalism today.
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