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Brennan vs. Rehnquist: The Battle for the Constitution

Brennan vs. Rehnquist: The Battle for the Constitution

by Peter Irons

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Irons (The Courage of Their Convictions) examines 100 Supreme Court cases from 1972 to 1990, exploring the rival constitutional visions of the two staunchest opponents, liberal justice William Brennan and conservative William Rehnquist, who became chief justice in 1986. Not the story of a personal clash-Irons has relied on the public record instead of interviews-this accessible but meaty offering in constitutional law provides more detail than many general readers may want. Irons first sketches the justices' philosophies. Brennan's is ``dignity,'' rooted in the Roman Catholic ``social gospel,'' which leads to a skepticism concerning the state and majoritarianism and a willingness to look at the ``social facts'' of a case. Rehnquist's is ``deference,'' rooted in his white-bread Republican upbringing, which leads to trust in authority and the majority. An admitted Brennan partisan, the author explains the opposing views fair-mindedly. His conclusion: though Brennan retired in 1990, much of his legacy remains, and recent appointments have forged a moderate court beyond the reach of Rehnquist's dominance. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Once again, Irons (political science, Univ. of California, San Diego) has produced an illuminating account of law and politics in the United States, in this instance by wisely focusing on the jurisprudence of two of the leading and controversial justices of the modern era. Irons parts the purple curtain of the Supreme Court to reveal its inner workings, especially the competing constitutional and social visions of retired Justice William Brennan and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Anyone familiar with Irons's earlier works on the Court and law in the United States (The Courage of Their Convictions, LJ 2/1/89) is aware of his thesis connecting constitutional law as a form of politics. He pursues this thesis with convincing vigor as he contrasts Brennan's "dignitarian" jurisprudence with the "deference" approach of Rehnquist. This work is not the effort of a detached, disinterested observer; Irons is an advocate, and in this case he has written another "keeper." This book belongs on the shelf of every student of the Supreme Court. Highly recommended.-Stephen K. Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.31(d)

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