The Constitutional Bases of Political and Social Change in the United States

by Shlomo Slonim

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April 1990


Pages 388
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General
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This volume collects the papers presented at a conference sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to mark the bicentennial of the framing and adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The conference joined distinguished members of the American judiciary, bar, and academia and their Israeli counterparts in an intensive debate on the part the Constitution has assumed in American life during the 200 years of its existence. Each paper focuses specifically on one aspect of the Constitution; the subject matter ranges from executive-legislative relations to minority rights, religious freedom, and constitutional reform. Throughout, comments and rebuttals are also included. Unique in its international approach to constitutional issues and developments, this volume will be of significant interest to constitutional and legal scholars.

Following two papers that provide a backdrop to the debate by reviewing the historical background of the Constitution and examining the rise of the Supreme Court, the contributors move on to address such issues as: the issue of executive-legislative relations and the impacts of the Constitution on these relations over the years; the inherent tensions that exist between the establishment and free exercise clauses in the First Amendment; the question of minority rights under the Constitution as relates to both race and gender; and the newly discovered right of privacy under the constitution. Subsequent papers address whether the Constitution needs amending and explore the impact of the U.S. Constitution on Israeli jurisprudence. In the final group of essays, the contributors deal with the possible assumption by the U.S. Supreme Court of a new role--a more forthright involvement in promoting social justice.

Table of Contents

PrefaceThe Constitutional SettingThe Historical BackgroundExecutive-Legislative RelationsThe Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses: Resolvng the Inherent TensionMinority Rights Under the Constitution: RaceMinority Rights Under the Constitution: GenderIndividual Liberties and the Rights of PrivacyReforming the Constitutional SystemThe Impact of the Constitution Abroad: The View from IsraelSocial Change and Social Justice: A New Role for the Constitution?IndexContributors



One of a number of recent books devoted to the bicentennial of the US Constitution, this volume, edited by Slonim (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), grew from a conference in Israel just a year prior to that state's 40th anniversary. The roster of participants, including Gordon S. Wood, Louis Henkin, Louis Fisher, Jesse H. Choper, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wallace Medelson, Walter F. Murphy, Theodore Lowi, Henry J. Abraham, Martin Shapiro, and others, is a virtual who's who of US constitutional law, and the essays and comments, although covering familiar ground, are consistently sound and provocative. Topics include executive-legislative relations, the religion clauses, minority rights, the right to privacy, constitutional reform, and the role of the courts in promoting social change. Two essays, both by Israelis, make a convincing case that US law, especially relative to free speech, has had a substantial impact in Israel despite obvious structural differences between the two governments. Generous notes at the end of most chapters help make this a useful addition to any academic library.—Choice

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