On Constitutional Disobedience

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Overview

What would the Framers of the Constitution make of multinational corporations? Nuclear weapons? Gay marriage? They led a preindustrial country, much of it dependent on slave labor, huddled on the Atlantic seaboard. The Founders saw society as essentially hierarchical, led naturally by landed gentry like themselves. Yet we still obey their commands, two centuries and one civil war later. According to Louis Michael Seidman, it's time to stop.

In On Constitutional Disobedience, ...

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Overview

What would the Framers of the Constitution make of multinational corporations? Nuclear weapons? Gay marriage? They led a preindustrial country, much of it dependent on slave labor, huddled on the Atlantic seaboard. The Founders saw society as essentially hierarchical, led naturally by landed gentry like themselves. Yet we still obey their commands, two centuries and one civil war later. According to Louis Michael Seidman, it's time to stop.

In On Constitutional Disobedience, Seidman argues that, in order to bring our basic law up to date, it needs benign neglect. This is a highly controversial assertion. The doctrine of "original intent" may be found on the far right, but the entire political spectrum—left and right—shares a deep reverence for the Constitution. And yet, Seidman reminds us, disobedience is the original intent of the Constitution. The Philadelphia convention had gathered to amend the Articles of Confederation, not toss them out and start afresh. The "living Constitution" school tries to bridge the gap between the framers and ourselves by reinterpreting the text in light of modern society's demands. But this attempt is doomed, Seidman argues. One might stretch "due process of law" to protect an act of same-sex sodomy, yet a loyal-but-contemporary reading cannot erase the fact that the Constitution allows a candidate who lost the popular election to be seated as president. And that is only one of the gross violations of popular will enshrined in the document. Seidman systematically addresses and refutes the arguments in favor of Constitutional fealty, proposing instead that it be treated as inspiration, not a set of commands.

The Constitution is, at its best, a piece of poetry to liberty and self-government. If we treat it as such, the author argues, we will make better progress in achieving both.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a deeply provocative book from one of our most thoughtful and skeptical constitutional thinkers. Michael Seidman wants us to to own up to our Constitution's flaws, and stop mindlessly obeying it - by which he means we should stop pretending people got it all right two hundred years ago and start figuring out things for ourselves. Whether you agree or disagree, Seidman is surely right we that we must take ownership of the world we live in. Allow yourself to be provoked."—Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

"No contemporary scholar challenges conventional conceptions about constitutional law more fundamentally than Louis Michael Seidman. In this short but profound work, he poses perhaps the most basic question of constitutionalism — why should we ever do what the Constitution commands when we think it better to do something else? Seidman's provocative defense of constitutional disobedience may or may not convince you, but it will challenge you to rethink some of society's most foundational beliefs."—David D. Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199898275
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2013
  • Series: Inalienable Rights Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 597,326
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis Michael Seidman is Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University. His books include Our Unsettled Constitution, Equal Protection of the Laws, and Silence and Freedom.

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Table of Contents

Introduction:The Gaudy Contradictions of American Constitutionalism
Chapter Two: The Argument Briefly Stated
Chapter Three: Obedience over Time
Chapter Four: The Banality of Constitutional Violation
Chapter Five: Disobedience and Freedom
Chapter Six Ordinary Laws and Extraordinary Arguments

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Short sighted and poorly framed argument. This book is not persu

    Short sighted and poorly framed argument. This book is not persuasive and it appears the author lacks little understanding of the extraordinary sacrifices made by countless people to protect themselves (and us today) from our government. 

    Beyond disappointing. Save your money. 


    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    anonymous did not read the book. just gave a spam review.

    anonymous did not read the book. just gave a spam review.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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