2020 Readings -- Staff Picks

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Constitution2020.org Staff

Readers interested in delving into other sources that comment on 2020’s main themes should regularly consult our 2020 Readings section, where we’ll be actively compiling (with your help, of course) works that will be useful for creating specially themed reading groups, crafting research projects, or creating your own personal reading list. For starters, the 2020 staff recommends the following:

Amy Chua, WORLD ON FIRE: HOW EXPORTING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY BREEDS GLOBAL HATRED AND INSTABILITY (Anchor Books, 2003)
Relevant 2020 Section: State, Nation, World
 
While progressives often envision a world of constitutional democracies, our efforts to bring such a world to fruition have often been disastrously unsuccessful. As we re-gather after Iraq and begin to devise a foreign policy more in line with our constitutional commitments, this insightful book warns of the dangers of cookie-cutter approaches to promoting democracy and economic development, while also providing useful and sophisticated ideas for moving forward. Chua's world-spanning study informs our understanding of the possibilities and limits of free-market democracy in the developing world. -L.P.N.
 
Jedediah Purdy, BEING AMERICA: LIBERTY, COMMERCE, AND VIOLENCE IN AN AMERICAN WORLD  (Random House, 2003)
Relevant 2020 Sections: State, Nation, World; Citizenship and Community; Democracy and Civil Liberties
 
A rich and compelling commentary on how America is envisioned at home and abroad -- told through a journey in the months after September 11, 2001.  Purdy travels through Asia, Africa, and America and captures the stories of activists and ordinary people who express mixed resentment and admiration for America.  His reports are interwoven with intellectual voices from the past, including James Madison, Edmund Burke, and Adam Smith, to help explain America's legacy of freedoms and prejudices.  A lucid, provocative, and deeply inspiring companion for anyone who has come of age in a post-9/11 world and seeks to articulate a progressive vision for America. - V.K.
 
Yochai Benkler, THE WEALTH OF NETWORKS: HOW SOCIAL PRODUCTION TRANSFORMS MARKETS AND FREEDOM (Yale University Press, 2007) (available for free download here)
Relevant 2020 Sections: Democracy and Civil Liberties; Social Rights and Legislative Constitutionalism; State, Nation, World

An examination of networks, social production, and other recent developments in the creation and distribution of information.  Benkler analyzes the implications and possibilities of information policy through economic, social, and political lenses. He also asks us to consider what binds us together -- exploring concepts like "society" and "culture," in addition to more traditional tenets like "autonomy" and "democracy." Interestingly, when it comes to social production, Benkler practiced what he preaches: prior to its publication, The Wealth of Networks was available on a Wiki page where people were able to read chapters and contribute their comments, analysis, etc. – S.G.
 
David Feige, INDEFENSIBLE: ONE LAWYER'S JOURNEY INTO THE INFERNO OF AMERICAN JUSTICE (Little, Brown and Company, 2006)
Relevant 2020 Section: Democracy and Civil Liberties
 
An authentic account of big-city criminal justice. Feige, a former public defender with New York's Legal Aid Society and the Bronx Defenders, spins courtroom tales that ring true to anyone who knows the system and may shock those who don't. Indefensible is required reading for anyone who believes in due process of law. -- D.W.
 
Susan H. Bitensky, “Theoretical Foundations for a Right to Education Under the U.S. Constitution: A Beginning to the End of the National Education Crisis,” 86 NW. U. L. REV. 550 (1992)
Relevant 2020 Section: Social Rights and Legislative Constitutionalism
 
Bitensky’s article gives an overview of the American education crisis in the early nineties, analyzes current rights to education, and then explores a number of theories for a positive right to education under the United States Constitution.  Recommended as an overview of case law-based theories to an education right. – T.L.
 
THE FORBATH-MICHELMAN DEBATE
Relevant 2020 Sections: Social Rights and Legislative Constitutionalism
 

  • William E. Forbath, "Caste, Class, and Equal Citizenship," 98 MICH. L. REV. 1 (1999)

            An expanded and detailed exploration of Forbath's argument for social citizenship. In an attempt to  remember and reconstitute a forgotten progressive past, Forbath traces the     history of the concept from the founding to the present, showing its deep American historical heritage.
 

  • Frank I. Michelman, "Democracy-Based Resistance to a Constitutional Right of Social Citizenship," 69 FORDHAM L. REV. 1893 (2001)

             In this brief comment, renowned constitutional theorist Frank Michelman lays out precise and illuminating criticisms of William Forbath's argument for social citizenship rights.  Michelman is just the right man for the job too, since Forbath's argument for social rights is a direct response to Michelman's theory of constitutional welfare rights.  Michelman has an intimate feel for the stakes in the debate and how small distinctions can have radically different implications.
 

  • William E. Forbath, "Not So Simple Justice: Frank Michelman on Social Rights, 1969-Present" (2004), 39 TULSA L. REV. 597

              William Forbath strikes back: another chapter in the long running debate between Michelman and Forbath on social citizenship rights.  Forbath traces Michelman's evolution on social citizenship rights and challenges his reader to imagine the Constitution in 2020 where each citizen has a right to health care, education, and work. – J.B.


Terry Eagleton, REASON, FAITH, AND REVOLUTION: REFLECTIONS ON THE GOD DEBATE (Yale University Press, 2009)

Relevant 2020 Section: Protecting Religious Diversity

Preeminent British literary critic Terry Eagleton intervenes in the increasingly strident post-911 debate about the relationship between faith and reason in a democratic society. While everyone seems to know where evangelicals stand politically, the politics of the “New Atheism” have been less clear. In their rejection of the worship of the past, the New Atheists may appeal to those anxious about “atavistic” right-wingers and Republican wars on science. Eagleton troubles this allegiance between left politics and science when he denounces the New Atheism as an essentially right-wing phenomenon, and calls for the Left to distance itself from a technocratic style which he sees as typifying the elite political and cultural consensus. – J.K.

 
William Galston’s “Two Concepts of Liberalism,” 105 ETHICS 516 – 34 (1995)
Relevant 2020 Section: Protecting Religious Diversity

Liberals have often assumed the compatibility of important goals such as protecting diversity and promoting individual autonomy.  But what happens when these legitimate values conflict?  Using religious free exercise cases to frame his discussion, Galston argues that liberal philosophy and liberal constitutionalism have mistakenly prioritized liberal autonomy over social and religious diversity.  Galston mixes intellectual history and analytical philosophy to trace tensions within liberalism to two sources: the post-Reformation recognition of ongoing diversity and the Enlightenment’s emphasis on individual self-reflection.  Galston concludes that only a diversity-oriented liberalism can ensure the range of freedoms that liberalism requires. – K.T.

 
Edward Lazarus, CLOSED CHAMBERS: THE RISE, FALL, AND FUTURE OF THE MODERN SUPREME COURT (Penguin, 2005)
Relevant 2020 Sections: Interpreting Our Constitution, Democracy and Civil Liberties
 
An engrossing inside account of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudential trajectory over the last several decades.  Controversial since its debut in 1998, Lazarus’s behind-the-scenes look at the Court draws on his year clerking for Justice Blackmun; but it also contains extensive original research on the Court’s decision-making in touchstone areas of American law.  Focusing particularly on the death penalty, abortion, and racial preferences, Lazarus shows how the Court’s decisions are a product of precedent, politics, and personality.  Opinionated and compulsively readable, Closed Chambers lays bare how sustained ideological ferment can make its way, in big ways and small, inside the Marble Palace. –A.D.C.


Louis Menand, THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB: A STORY OF IDEAS IN AMERICA (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2002)
Relevant 2020 Section: Interpreting Our Constitution
 
Critics have argued that pragmatism is America’s only home-grown philosophy. While that notion is debatable, pragmatism (in its various and changing forms) has long played a role in the development of American constitutional, social, and political thought. Now, with an Administration that openly declares itself “pragmatic,” pragmatism seems poised to make a comeback. How did we reach this point? Menand’s Pulitzer Prize-winning intellectual history offers readers an engaging overview of pragmatism’s development and spread, with a firm sense of story to match; at the same time, it suggests that pragmatism has, does, and should mean something more than being “non-ideological” or “practical-minded.” – T.W.

 
Laurence Tribe, THE INVISIBLE CONSTITUTION (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Relevant 2020 Section: Interpreting Our Constitution
Tribe's invaluable study of the power and influence of the unwritten, as well as written, Constitution. This book asks us to reimagine the Constitution and to see beyond the limits of originalism. Merging text and context, Tribe offers a sweeping analysis of what the Constitution means and how we ought to interpret it. -L.P.N.