Constitution Cafe: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution

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Thomas Jefferson believed that every generation of Americans should rewrite our Constitution from scratch—to mirror the progress of the human mind and, most of all, to maintain the revolutionary spirit. He would be dismayed that it’s considered untouchable these days. Taking up Jefferson’s cause, Christopher Phillips leads a motley group of Americans across the fruited plain in an offbeat Constitutional Convention. His Constitution Café project is sparking a much-needed conversation about our founding document ...

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Constitution Café: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution

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Thomas Jefferson believed that every generation of Americans should rewrite our Constitution from scratch—to mirror the progress of the human mind and, most of all, to maintain the revolutionary spirit. He would be dismayed that it’s considered untouchable these days. Taking up Jefferson’s cause, Christopher Phillips leads a motley group of Americans across the fruited plain in an offbeat Constitutional Convention. His Constitution Café project is sparking a much-needed conversation about our founding document and forging common ground at a time when our country needs it most.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson argued that the Constitution should be periodically revised to keep up with the times? He wanted democracy to stay fresh. In that spirit, Phillips talked with folks at high schools, parks, malls, and venues like the Burning Man Project about possible additions/revisions to the Constitution. He's no stranger to such things, having penned the Socrates Café books, which report his cheerful and accessible chats about big philosophical questions. This book should be as cheerful and accessible, too, and it's powerfully germane. A good bet for most readers; with a five-city tour.
Thaddeus Russell
“This book represents the best of American democracy — the irreverent and perpetual questioning of authority and received wisdom. Christopher Phillips dares to suggest that we should smash open the Constitution's glass case and hand it to the people the Founding Fathers called the 'mob.' With infinite curiosity and an intellectual integrity that is rare among professional thinkers, Phillips says about the bible of American tradition the unthinkable, the glorious, and the liberating: let it rip.”
Publisher’s Weekly
“An engaging and informative narrator, Phillips intersperses the modern-day conversations with Jefferson’s thoughts about the issues under discussion and the founding fathers’ own disagreements as they framed the Constitution. In an era of hyper-partisanship, it’s refreshing to read instances of Americans from all political persuasions holding rational, respectful, and thought-provoking conversations with one another.”
Stephen Duncombe
“A truly radical and deeply patriotic book, Constitution Café illustrates the power and promise of democracy, using the extra-ordinary conversations of ordinary citizens to re-animate the founding ideas and documents of this country. America needs this!”
Dr. Larry J. Sabato
“The United States needs constitutional change, but how to get it done? Christopher Phillips has the right answer. Get Americans talking to Americans about how we can improve our nation. Phillips has combined the approach of Socrates and the wisdom of Jefferson to show us the way.”
Library Journal
Is it time to call a new Constitutional Convention? Building on the small, informal gatherings that Phillips used to collect the information for an earlier book, Socrates Café, he traveled around the country leading discussions on how the U.S. Constitution could be updated to reflect 21st-century values. Basing much of the discussion on Jefferson's views of individual rights and his wariness of centralized power, Phillips reminds readers that Jefferson advocated replacement of the Constitution every 19 or 20 years. The wide range of topics includes altering the process of amending the Constitution, restricting the power of lobbyists, and providing for a universal "world class" education for every child. Following a description of the participants in each group and its setting, Phillips provides a brief summary of the discussion's content and progress, then proposes a Constitution Article that the group agreed on. Background information and follow-up commentary accompany each section. VERDICT As an exploration of current governmental theory and philosophy, the book provides an excellent framework for conducting similar discussions. Readers who enjoy political and governmental theory or who participate in politically oriented book clubs will find this a worthwhile choice. [See Prepub Alert, 2/7/11.]—Jill Ortner, Hamburg, NY
Kirkus Reviews

Phillips (Philosophy/New York University; Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Passionate Heart, 2007, etc.) takes a fresh look at the Constitution.

The author suggests that the reason the last election left many progressives feeling betrayed by Obama's leadership and boosted his Tea Party opposition is because the "system itself that was handed to us by our Framers prevents meaningful reforms that facilitate more responsive and responsible government." Rather than continuing to amend the Constitution, Phillips argues that the time has come to draft a new one. All that would be needed is a vote by two-thirds of state legislatures to hold a new convention. To help the process along, he has been traveling around the country facilitating meetings with students, green activists, Tea Party supporters and others, in an effort to mobilize a grassroots discussion on what a new Constitution might look like. The author bases his proposal on a similar one by Thomas Jefferson that a Constitutional Convention be held every 20 years to review the founding document. He reports proposed new constitutional articles ranging from the far out—that every citizen be given $50,000 at the age of 18, and that the election process be modeled on reality-TV shows like American Idol—to the serious, such as the right of every child to high-quality education. The author skillfully interweaves a history of the early days of the Republic and the disputes at that time with a discussion of Jefferson's involvement with constitutional issues in the state of Virginia as well as for the country as a whole, and he offers useful insight to Jefferson's thoughts over his long career.

A provocative extension of Jefferson's original plan.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393342260
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/2/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 580,569
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Phillips
Christopher Phillips is the author of Socrates Café, Six Questions of Socrates, Socrates in Love, and Constitution Café. He teaches at New York University and lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.
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Table of Contents

I Constitution Café 1

II In the Beginning 4

II Constitution Making and Remaking 26

IV Commons and Goods 51

V Character Counts 94

VI Money Matters 130

VII Hail to the Chief 162

VIII And Justice for All 204

IX Governors and the Governed 230

X Rights and Responsibilities 253

XI Brew for a True Revolution 310

Acknowledgments 317

Further Reading 319

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2015

    Brooke's bio

    Name: Brooke Ava Devion Godly parent: Persephone, godess of life Looks: black hair with blonde highlights, pale skin with minimal freckles on the bridge of nose, emerald green eyes. Talents: throwing dagger at targets, reasoning Likes: Reading, good clean fun, telling jokes Dislikes: liars, cheaters, when people are judgemental Crush: none Anything else dont hesitate to ask!! ;)

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    Posted April 26, 2012

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