A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Beforeby Cass R. Sunstein
The future of the U.S. Supreme Court hangs in the balance like never before. Will conservatives or liberals succeed in remaking the court in their own image? In A Constitution of Many Minds, acclaimed law scholar Cass Sunstein proposes a bold new way of interpreting the Constitution, one that respects the Constitution's text and history but also refuses to/i>
The future of the U.S. Supreme Court hangs in the balance like never before. Will conservatives or liberals succeed in remaking the court in their own image? In A Constitution of Many Minds, acclaimed law scholar Cass Sunstein proposes a bold new way of interpreting the Constitution, one that respects the Constitution's text and history but also refuses to view the document as frozen in time.
Exploring hot-button issues ranging from presidential power to same-sex relations to gun rights, Sunstein shows how the meaning of the Constitution is reestablished in every generation as new social commitments and ideas compel us to reassess our fundamental beliefs. He focuses on three approaches to the Constitution--traditionalism, which grounds the document's meaning in long-standing social practices, not necessarily in the views of the founding generation; populism, which insists that judges should respect contemporary public opinion; and cosmopolitanism, which looks at how foreign courts address constitutional questions, and which suggests that the meaning of the Constitution turns on what other nations do.
Sunstein demonstrates that in all three contexts a "many minds" argument is at work--put simply, better decisions result when many points of view are considered. He makes sense of the intense debates surrounding these approaches, revealing their strengths and weaknesses, and sketches the contexts in which each provides a legitimate basis for interpreting the Constitution today.
This book illuminates the underpinnings of constitutionalism itself, and shows that ours is indeed a Constitution, not of any particular generation, but of many minds.
Leonard H. Becker
Winner of the 2009 PROSE Award in Law & Legal Studies, Association of American Publishers
"Applying . . . insights to the field of constitutional law, the book develops, in elegant and careful prose, a novel collection of arguments within their discipline. The author [has] raised a number of fresh and controversial issues, and, as a result, [his] work is certain to be widely read and much discussed."--N.W. Barber, Texas Law Review
"Sunstein has a knack for identifying the operative kernel of complex ideas in a way that allows the reader to see how an unfamiliar concept links seemingly disparate problems."--Azuz Huq, New York Law Journal
"We would do well to have more thinkers around like Sunstein, and better yet to have more of them on the Supreme Court."--Leonard H. Becker, DC Lawyer Magazine
Sunstein (Harvard Law Sch.; Worst-Case Scenarios), currently information and regulatory affairs administrator in the Obama adminstration, engages us in a conversation about the enduring issues of American constitutional law and how society can create changes in constitutional understanding. He looks at three means of constitutional interpretation-traditionalism, populism, and cosmopolitanism-which, respectively, stress the role of traditions, the significance of public opinion, and the importance of foreign law in creating our present constitutional arguments. As Sunstein explains, each approach overlaps with the other. Sunstein carefully analyzes each approach and shows that all create a central dilemma in constitutional law; for example, the traditionalism approach limits some aspects of due process activities. He also examines the consequences of each approach to determine whether it would make our constitutional order better or worse. He sees the new social and political commitments of citizens and political leaders, as well as the courts, as key elements in redirecting constitutional interpretation. Highly recommended for scholarly audiences and lay readers interested in current constitutional studies.
- Princeton University Press
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)
What People are Saying About This
Sanford Levinson, author of "Our Undemocratic Constitution"
Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School
Kim Lane Scheppele, author of "Legal Secrets"
Meet the Author
Cass R. Sunstein is currently on leave from his position as the Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard Law School to serve as Administrator of the Office of Regulation and Information Policy in the Obama administration. His many books include "Republic.com 2.0" (Princeton), "Worst-Case Scenarios", and "Nudge".
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