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A Culture of Rights: The Bill of Rights in Philosophy, Politics and Law, 1791 and 1991

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Overview

Written by leading authorities in history, philosophy, jurisprudence and political theory, the essays in this volume provide new insights into the variable and changing contents of the rights thinking and consciousness that lie at the core of American political culture and shape its central political institutions. Based on the current state of scholarly understanding and intended to provide a fresh sense of orientation into the complexities of the separate topics covered, the studies focus on two distinct "moments" in the American experience: the eighteenth-century period of founding that produced the Bill of Rights as an element in the Constitutional settlement, and the contemporary moment, marked by a new historical consciousness of the difficulties of interpreting rights in changing contexts and thus by the continuing search for a properly grounded philosophical jurisprudence adequate to meet the ethical, social, and political conflicts of the present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A Culture of Rights, the product of a workshop series organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in commemoration of the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, is a marvelous collection of essays containing some of the very best scholarship to emerge from the seemingly interminable celebration of the federal Constitution's creation. Editors Michael J. Lacey and Knud Haakonssen have assembled works that deal creatively with the historical context of the Bill of Rights, with its modern transformation into the center of American constitutional law, and with some of the difficult philosophical and jurisprudential problems that cluster around the notion of 'rights.'" H. Jefferson Powell, The Journal of American History

"The authors and editors deserve high praise for their willingness to go beyond the accepted and to lay out new and often intensely controversial views, while meeting the highest standards of scholarship and intellectual honesty. The result is a book with a surprising degree of thematic cohesion (due in part to Lacey and Haakonssen's helpful introduction) that has much to say to historians of politics and ideas, moral philosophers, lawyers, and anyone concerned with the role rights talk plays in contemporary American society." H. Jefferson Powell, The Journal of American History (this quote from the same review above, wouldn't fit in same occurence)

"...an example of the rich discussion that can result when matters of general concern are analyzed by scholars from a variety of disciplines." Review in American History

"For anyone seriously interested in understanding the American political founding and the evolution of our constitutional republic, A Culture of Rights is required reading. The impressive essays in this collection...explore the cultural, moral, philosophical, legal and political moorings of rights as they were established and have developed throughout American history....This collection is a valuable and important contribution to the literature and belongs in all academic libraries." Library Journal

"No brief review can do justice to the richness of these essays. They open new paths of inquiry, make important conributions in some instances, and shed light on why the current controversies over the Bill of Rights hold a central place in American culture." George A. Billias, William and Mary Quarterly

"Lacey and Haakonssen have assembled essays by distinguished academics concerning the 18th- and late-20th-century cultures and American experience which illuminate more clearly than ever the origin of rights and their modern-day complexities." The Key Reporter

"The American public let the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights pass with barely a notice. Happily, the editors of this marvelous anthology took better advantage of the occasion. They have organized an impressive group of legal scholars, philosophers, historians, and political theorists who in turn have produced seven first-rate essays that offer readers thoughtful, comprehensive, and original discussions of the philosophical and historical origins of our 'culture of rights' and of the implications for law and politics of being firmly embedded in such a tradition....Whether one views this inquiry as essentially a matter of philosophy, jurisprudence, or politics, it will be advanced by this admirable anthology." Howard Gillman, Legal Studies Forum

Library Journal
For anyone seriously interested in understanding the American political founding and the evolution of our constitutional republic, A Culture of Rights is required reading. The impressive essays in this collection attest to the vocabulary of rights deeply rooted in the American political tradition, yet they also note accurately the ``inherent complexity'' of thinking about rights. They explore the cultural, moral, philosophical, legal, and political moorings of rights as they were established and have developed throughout American history, especially in terms of their status as ``constitutional'' rights. This collection is a valuable and important contribution to the literature and belongs in all academic libraries.-- Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521416375
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1991
  • Series: Woodrow Wilson Center Press Series
  • Pages: 482
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction: history, historicism, and the culture of rights; 1. From natural law to the rights of man: a European perspective on American debates; 2. The Bill of Rights and the American revolutionary experience; 3. Parchment barriers and the politics of rights; 4. Rights and wrongs: Jefferson, slavery and philosophical quandaries; 5. Practical philosophy and the Bill of Rights: perspectives on some contemporary issues; 6. The development of modern American legal theory and the judicial interpretation of the Bill of Rights; 7. The British, the Americans, and rights Appendix: the constitution and the Bill of Rights; About the authors; Index.

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