The Constitution Today
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"I don't think there is anyone in the academy these days capable of more patient and attentive reading of the constitutional text than Akhil Amar."--Jeremy Waldron, New York Review of Books When the stories that lead our daily news involve momentous constitutional questions, present-minded journalists and busy citizens cannot always see the stakes clearly. In The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar, America's preeminent constitutional scholar, considers the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades--from gun control to gay marriage, affirmative action to criminal procedure, presidential dynasties to congressional dysfunction, Bill Clinton's impeachment to Obamacare. He shows how the Constitution's text, history, and structure are a crucial repository of collective wisdom, providing specific rules and grand themes relevant to every organ of the American body politic. Leading readers through the constitutional questions at stake in each episode while outlining his abiding views regarding the direction constitutional law must go, Amar offers an essential guide for anyone seeking to understand America's Constitution and its relevance today.
In America’s Constitution, one of this era’s most accomplished constitutional law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives the first comprehensive account of one of the world’s great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this “biography” of America’s framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it. We all know this much: the Constitution is neither immutable nor perfect. Amar shows us how the story of this one relatively compact document reflects the story of America more generally. (For example, much of the Constitution, including the glorious-sounding “We the People,” was lifted from existing American legal texts, including early state constitutions.) In short, the Constitution was as much a product of its environment as it was a product of its individual creators’ inspired genius. Despite the Constitution’s flaws, its role in guiding our republic has been nothing short of amazing. Skillfully placing the document in the context of late-eighteenth-century American politics, America’s Constitution explains, for instance, whether there is anything in the Constitution that is unamendable; the reason America adopted an electoral college; why a president must be at least thirty-five years old; and why–for now, at least–only those citizens who were born under the American flag can become president. From his unique perspective, Amar also gives us unconventional wisdom about the Constitution and its significance throughout the nation’s history. For one thing, we see that the Constitution has been far more democratic than is conventionally understood. Even though the document was drafted by white landholders, a remarkably large number of citizens (by the standards of 1787) were allowed to vote up or down on it, and the document’s later amendments eventually extended the vote to virtually all Americans. We also learn that the Founders’ Constitution was far more slavocratic than many would acknowledge: the “three fifths” clause gave the South extra political clout for every slave it owned or acquired. As a result, slaveholding Virginians held the presidency all but four of the Republic’s first thirty-six years, and proslavery forces eventually came to dominate much of the federal government prior to Lincoln’s election. Ambitious, even-handed, eminently accessible, and often surprising, America’s Constitution is an indispensable work, bound to become a standard reference for any student of history and all citizens of the United States.
For over seventy-five years Edward S. Corwin's text has been a basic reference in the study of U.S. Constitutional Law. The 14th edition, the first new edition since 1973, brings the volume up to date through 1977. In this classic work, historian Edward Corwin presented the text of the U.S. Constitution along with his own commentary on its articles, sections, clauses, and amendments. Corwin was a renowned authority on constitutional law and jurisprudence, and was hired at Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson in 1905. Far from being an impersonal textbook, Corwin's edition was full of opinion. Not afraid to express his own strong views of the development of American law, Corwin offered piquant descriptions of the debates about the meaning of clauses, placing recent decisions of the court "in the familiar setting of his own views." The favor of his style is evident in his comments on judicial review ("American democracy's way of covering its bet") and the cabinet ("an administrative anachronism" that should be replaced by a legislative council "whose daily salt does not come from the Presidential table"). Corwin periodically revised the book for nearly forty years, incorporating into each new edition his views of new Supreme Court rulings and other changes in American law. Although Corwin intended his book for the general public, his interpretations always gained the attention of legal scholars and practitioners. The prefaces he wrote to the revised editions were often controversial for the views he offered on the latest developments of constitutional law, and the book only grew in stature and recognition. After his death in 1963, other scholars prepared subsequent editions, fourteen in all.
| SHORTLISTED FOR THE TATA LITERATURE LIVE NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019 | We think of the Indian Constitution as a founding document, embodying a moment of profound transformation from being ruled to becoming a nation of free and equal citizenship. Yet the working of the Constitution over the last seven decades has often failed to fulfil that transformative promise. Not only have successive Parliaments failed to repeal colonial-era laws that are inconsistent with the principles of the Constitution, but constitutional challenges to these laws have also failed before the courts. Indeed, in numerous cases, the Supreme Court has used colonial-era laws to cut down or weaken the fundamental rights. The Transformative Constitution by Gautam Bhatia draws on pre-Independence legal and political history to argue that the Constitution was intended to transform not merely the political status of Indians from subjects to citizens, but also the social relationships on which legal and political structures rested. He advances a novel vision of the Constitution, and of constitutional interpretation, which is faithful to its text, structure and history, and above all to its overarching commitment to political and social transformation.