The Implosion of American Federalism / Edition 1

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Overview

At a time of unprecedented national power, why do so many Americans believe that our nationhood is fragile and precarious? Why the talk--among politicians, academics, and jurists--of "coup d'etats," of culture wars, of confederation, of constitutional breakdown? In this wide-ranging book, Robert Nagel proposes a surprising answer: that anxiety about national unity is caused by centralization itself. Moreover, he proposes that this anxiety has dangerous cultural consequences that are, in an implosive cycle, pushing the country toward ever greater centralization.

Carefully examining recent landmark Supreme Court cases that protect states' rights, Nagel argues that the federal judiciaryis not leading and is not likely to lead a revival of the complex system called federalism. A robust version of federalism requires apprecation for political conflict and respect for disagreement about constitutional meaning, both values that are deeply antithetical to the Court's function. That so many believe this most centralized of our Nation's institutions is protecting, even overprotecting, state power is itself a sign of the depletion of those understandings necessary to sustain the federal system.

Instead of a support for federalism, Nagel finds a commitment to radical nationalism throughout the constitutional law establishment. He traces this commitment to traditionally American traits like perfectionism, optimism, individualism, and legalism. Under modern conditions of centralization, these attractive traits are leading to unattractive social consequences, including tolerance, fearfulness, utopianism, and deceptiveness. They are degrading our political discourse. All this encourages further centralization and further cultural deterioration.

This book puts the major federalism decisions within the framework of the Court's overall record, including its record on individual rights in areas like abortion, homosexuality, and school desegregation. And, giving special attention to public debate over privacy and impeachment, it places modern constitutional law in the context of political discourse more generally.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Is the U.S. national government becoming more centralized and thus better able to reduce major political and social conflicts? In this controversial view of American federalism, (American constitutional law, Univ. of Colorado Sch. of Law) argues that "our political institutions are collapsing into the center" which isn't good. Discussing U.S. constitutional law, he considers whether current politics is "breaking down the understandings and social structures that maintain federalism." Nagel believes that this implosion of government power is leading to the centralization of authority and homogenization of society, reducing possibilities for both competition among state and national governments and different avenues of political participation. He strongly disagrees with analysts of U.S. Supreme Court federalism decisions, countering that the Court cannot support a robust federalism. Nagel's analysis of longer trends regarding U.S. government structures will interest individuals concerned with current politics and the future of American society. His thoughtful argument is highly recommended for larger public and academic libraries. Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A subtle and compelling analysis of the leading cases, which makes up the bulk of his splendid book, Nagel shows, first, that the Supreme Court has not really reasserted federalism but rather "domesticated" it. --The Weekly Standard

"His voice is conservative but with a surprising twist....[Nagel] suggests that the Court's 'new federalism' jurisprudence falls far short of restoring state government and politics to their full and proper vigor. "--The Washington Post

"No recent book matches Nagel's thoughtful and thought-provoking observations on federalism, the Supreme Court, and the state of American politics."--Michael S. Greve, AEI

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195158410
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Colorado, School of Law
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