The People Themselves

The People Themselves : Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review

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The United States Constitution is the foundational document of the longest and most successful democratic experiment in modern human history. It not only serves as the legal bedrock for the world's most powerful nation-state but also, more broadly, reflects that nation's fundamental commitments as a society. Who then has the authority to interpret a blueprint of such extraordinary influence? Americans have come to treat the Constitution as somehow beyond the purview, even the competence, of the average American citizen. Only lawyers, judges, and academics are deemed fit to state what exactly the Constitution means. This elitist reliance on expert judgement is a radical and troublesome departure from the founding fathers' intent. America's Founding generation, in darling contrast, embraced a political ideology that celebrated the central role of the "the people" in supplying government with its energy and direction, an ideal that remained at all times in the forefront of their thinking-Federalist and Anti-Federalist alike.
In this groundbreaking interpretation of America's founding and of its entire system of judicial review, Larry Kramer reveals that the colonists fought for and birthed a very different system - and held a very different understanding of citizenship - than Americans believe to be the norm today. "Popular sovreignty" was no historical abstraction nor was the notion of "the people" invoked largely as a flip rhetorical convenience on the campaign trail. Important trials and the prospective passage of the influentional legislation such as the Alien Act - which granted a president the power to imprison or even deport immigrants - were met with vigorous public debate. The outcomes were greeted with celebratory feasts and bonfires, or riotous resistance. In short, Americans drew a clear parallel between the law and the lived reality of their daily existence. Theis self-sovreignty in law as much as politics was active not abstract. With this book, Larry Kramer vaults to the forefront of Constitutional interpretation.
In the process, he rekindles the original spark of "we the people", inviting every citizen to join him in enlivening the seemingly deadened sensibilities that mark the relationship between Americans and their constitutional past, present, and future.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 376 pages
  • 156 x 232 x 28mm | 635.04g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195169182
  • 9780195169188

About Larry Kranmer

Larry Kramer is Russell D. Niles Professor of Law at New York University. He served as a law clerk to Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., of the United States Supreme Court and taught at the law schools of both the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan before moving to NYU. He has written extensively in both academic and popular journals on topics involving the role of courts in society.
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Table of contents

CONTENTS; INTRODUCTION; 1. In Substance, and In Principle, the Same as It Was Heretofore: The Customary Constitution; 2. A Rule Obligatory Upon Every Department: The Origins of Judicial Review; 3. The Power Under the Constitution Will Always Be in the People: The Making of the Constitution; 4. Courts, as Well as Other Departments, Are Bound by That Instrument: Accepting Judicial Review; 5. What Every True Republican Ought to Depend On: Rejecting Judicial Supremacy; 6. Notwithstanding This Abstract View: The Changing Context of Constitutional Law; 7. To Preserve the Constitution, as a Perpetual Bond of Union: The Lessons of Experience; 8. A Layman's Document, Not a Lawyer's Contract: The Continuing Struggle for Popular Constitutionalism; 9. As An American: Popular Constitutionalism, Circa 2003; EPILOGUE
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Review quote

..".masterful opening chapters...deserves great praise for his detailed historical research, which recaptures the flavor of early constitutionalism and its deep connection with an active and spirited American people. He also deserves great praise for untangling the different conceptions of "constitution" floating around and rendering that understanding easily accessible to a modern audience...a provocative and original analysis of American constitutionalism that will command a wide audience."--Perspectives on Politics"Offers a fresh way of viewing the origins and limits of judicial review. The People Themselves challenges conventional constitutional jurisprudence and conventional constitutional history with a deeply researched historical pedigree for popular refusal to accept the Supreme Court's usurping title to the people's document."--The New York Review of Books"Mr. Kramer is to be applauded for reminding us that courts do not enjoy a monopoly on the Constitution's true meaning and that senators and presidents alike should take the Constitution seriously in the confirmation process and at other times as well."--The Wall Street Journal"An instructive tour through the early history of American constitutionalism."--National Review"Larry Kramer explains one of the great mysteries of modern America--why for 40 years, have the freest people in the world been powerless to stop courts of appointed lawyers from eroding their freedoms?.... A manual on how the American people can legitimately exercise their historic right to create what he calls popular constitutionalism."--Newt Gingrich, The New York Post"Rarely since Edmund Burke's 'Speech on Conciliation with America' in 1774 has the legal dimension of the American Revolution been understood with such precision and presented with such conviction."--First Things"This book is perhaps the most important work of constitutional theory and history in a generation."--Mark Tushnet, author of Taking the Constitution Away from the Courts"Larry Kramer's important project offers a refeshing challenge to the hackneyed story that places John Marshall and Marbury v. Madison at the center of the history of constitutional interpretation. Kramer restores to our historical understanding a lost world of popular constitutionalism, where the resolution of fundamental issues was regarded not as the private property of courts and judges but of the people themselves. And I cannot think of a better moment for such a challenge, because we live in an era when doubtful claims for the ultimate authority of the Supreme Court on all matters constitutional are again being heard in the land."--Jack Rakove, author of Original Meanings"An intelligent and stimulating book. Unlike many law professors writing history, Kramer is very sensitive to context and differing historical circumstances. He offers an impressive and powerful argument for the origins of judicial review."--Gordon Wood, author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution"This is the best account to date of the development of the power of judicial review in an age of revolutionary politics, and this history challenges us to ask what it really means to live in a democracy today. A fascinating work that deserves a wide audience."--Keith Whittington, author of Constitutional Construction"Kramer's history is absorbing, his political theory subtle. He puts flesh on the bones of debates over judicial review and popular constitutionalism. With a sure and rare conceptual touch, he traces, and correlates to other political events, modulations over time in the American idea of the Constitution as law. As he does so, he rings the changes on this idea's perceived implications regarding the justifications, self-understandings, and modes of conduct of judicial review."--Frank Michelman, Harvard Law School
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Rating details

44 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 14% (6)
4 52% (23)
3 25% (11)
2 7% (3)
1 2% (1)
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