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

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

by Cass R. Sunstein
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
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A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Before

The future of the U.S. Supreme Court hangs in the balance like never before. Will conservatives or liberals succeed in remaking the court in their own image? In A Constitution of Many Minds, acclaimed 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.

Exploring hot-button issues ranging from presidential power to same-sex relations to gun rights, Sunstein shows how the meaning of the Constitution is reestablished in every generation as new social commitments and ideas compel us to reassess our fundamental beliefs. He focuses on three approaches to the Constitution—traditionalism, which grounds the document's meaning in long-standing 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.

Sunstein demonstrates that in all three contexts a "many minds" argument is at work—put simply, better decisions result when many points of view are considered. He makes sense of the intense debates surrounding these approaches, revealing their strengths and weaknesses, and sketches the contexts in which each provides a legitimate basis for interpreting the Constitution today.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691133379
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 01/19/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: Jefferson's Revenge 1

Part I. Preliminaries 17

Chapter 1. There Is Nothing That Interpretation Just Is 19

Part II. Traditionalism 33

Chapter 2. Burkean Minimalism 35

Chapter 3. Rationalists vs. Burkeans 60

Chapter 4. Due Process Traditionalism 93

Part III. Populism 123

Chapter 5. Backlash's Travels 125

Chapter 6. Public Opinion and Social Consequences 140

Chapter 7. Public Opinion and Judicial Humility 165

Part IV. Cosmopolitanism 185

Chapter 8. What Other Nations Do 187

Afterword 210

Acknowledgments 217

Index 219

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