Monday, December 27, 2010

Coming in April! A New Edition of _A Theory of Public Opinion_

Review of David Strauss, _The Living Constitution_ (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010)

Strauss, David A.  The living Constitution.  Oxford, 2010.  150p index afp; ISBN 9780195377279, $21.95. Reviewed in 2010dec CHOICE.
In this volume, Strauss (law, Univ. of Chicago) provides an accessible and lucid refutation of originalist jurisprudence. In six chapters containing both new and previously published scholarship, originalism is analyzed as a flawed approach to interpreting the Constitution (chapter 1). The common law as the basis for American constitutionalism is defended (chapter 2), the "evolutionary common law" is applied to issues of speech and race (chapters 3 and 4), and the challenges of utilizing a written constitution are discussed (chapters 5 and 6). Unfortunately, the author's occasionally unreflective attitude toward originalism is most obvious when he argues incorrectly that the concept "cannot even claim the one advantage it purports to have over living constitutionalism," namely, the ability to limit judicial activism. Another weakness of an otherwise insightful critique is the author's omission of the nuances of the common law, especially in terms of how the common law contributes to a variety of modes of democratic theory. Regardless of how one interprets the Constitution, this volume will force the reader to reconsider fundamental assumptions about the nature of constitutional interpretation and the American regime while encountering a passionate defense of "an evolutionary form of living constitutionalism." Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. -- H. L. Cheek Jr., Athens State University

Review of Nemeth's _Aquinas and King_ (Carolina Academic Press, 2009)

Nemeth, Charles P.  Aquinas and King: a discourse on civil disobedience.  Carolina Academic, 2009.  125p index  afp ISBN 9781594606380 pbk, $16.00 

In this thoughtful, succinct study, Nemeth (California Univ. of Pennsylvania) attempts to synthesize the social, religious, and legal thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. regarding civil disobedience and the need for "an objective moral order."  In the first two chapters, the nature of law is explained, especially the categories of Thomistic legal thinking, as well as the meaning of civil disobedience.  Chapters 3 and 4 argue for the compatibility of civil disobedience and the Christian life.  The "radical" aspect of the interpretation suggests that an unjust law should not be obeyed.  The final chapter proposes areas of agreement between Aquinas and King regarding civil disobedience.  The book provides an engaging, lucid introduction to Aquinas on law.  Unfortunately, the analysis of King's thought is less discerning and fails to appreciate the overriding influence of Boston personalism upon his views of social and political life.  The author is correct to suggest both Aquinas and King "deliver an ethical construct that mirrors human life"; however, the divergence between Aquinas and King may be greater than the proposed convergence.  Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections.