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The Supreme Court and American Political Development

Edited by Ronald Kahn and Ken I. Kersch

May 2006
400 pages, 6 x 9
Cloth 978-0-7006-1438-7, $45.00 (unjacketed)
Paper 978-0-7006-1439-4, $30.00

book cover iimageThis innovative volume explores the evolution of constitutional doctrine as elaborated by the Supreme Court. Moving beyond the traditional “law versus politics” perspective, the authors draw extensively on recent studies in American Political Development (APD) to present a much more complex and sophisticated view of the Court as both a legal and political entity.

The contributors—including Pam Brandwein, Howard Gillman, Mark Graber, Ronald Kahn, Tom Keck, Ken Kersch, Wayne Moore, Carol Nackenoff, Julie Novkov, and Mark Tushnet—share an appreciation that the process of constitutional development involves a complex interplay between factors internal and external to the Court. They underscore the developmental nature of the Court, revealing how its decision-making and legal authority evolve in response to a variety of influences: not only laws and legal precedents, but also social and political movements, election returns and regime changes, advocacy group litigation, and the interpretive community of scholars, journalists, and lawyers.

Initial chapters reexamine standard approaches to the question of causation in judicial decision-making and the relationship between the Court and the ambient political order. Next, a selection of historical case studies exemplifies how the Court constructs its own authority as it defines individual rights and the powers of government. They show how interpretations of the Reconstruction amendments inform our understanding of racial discrimination, explain the undermining of affirmative action after Bakke, and consider why Roe v. Wade has yet to be overturned. They also tell how the Court has collaborated with political coalitions to produce the New Deal, Great Society, and Reagan Revolution, and why Native Americans have different citizenship rights than other Americans. These contributions encourage further debate about the nature and processes of constitutional change.

“A finely realized volume that is fresh, thoughtful, learned, and provocative.”--Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White

“An important book that paints a vivid portrait of the processes and contexts of constitutional change. . . . Unusually engaging and readable.”--Richard H. Fallon, Jr., author of The Dynamic Constitution

“A splendid collection. . . .Mandatory reading for anyone interested in American judicial politics.”--Michael McCann, author of Distorting the Law

“Will be of tremendous value to any student of the Court.” --Karen Orren, founder and editor of Studies in American Political Development

RONALD KAHN is James Monroe Professor of Politics and Law and Director of the Law and Society Program at Oberlin College and author of The Supreme Court and Constitutional Theory, 1953–1993. KEN I. KERSCH is assistant professor of politics and a member of the executive committee of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is the author of Constructing Civil Liberties: Discontinuities in the Development of American Constitutional Law.


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