A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Before

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Overview

"In A Constitution of Many Minds, 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." "Sunstein focuses on three approaches to the Constitution - traditionalism, which grounds the document's meaning in longstanding 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." 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

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.
—Steven Puro

Texas Law Review
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
New York Law Journal
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
DC Lawyer Magazine
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
Texas Law Review - N.W. Barber
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.
New York Law Journal - Azuz Huq
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.
DC Lawyer Magazine - Leonard H. Becker
We would do well to have more thinkers around like Sunstein, and better yet to have more of them on the Supreme Court.
From the Publisher

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691133379
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/19/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction Jefferson's Revenge 1

Pt. I Preliminaries 17

Ch. 1 There Is Nothing That Interpretation Just Is 19

Pt. II Traditionalism 33

Ch. 2 Burkean Minimalism 35

Ch. 3 Rationalists vs. Burkeans 60

Ch. 4 Due Process Traditionalism 93

Pt. III Populism 123

Ch. 5 Backlash's Travels 125

Ch. 6 Public Opinion and Social Consequences 140

Ch. 7 Public Opinion and Judicial Humility 165

Pt. IV Cosmopolitanism 185

Ch. 8 What Other Nations Do 187

Afterword 210

Acknowledgments 217

Index 219

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