Attempting to realize Plato's vision of a republic governed by "reason," American constitutionalists, according to Steven D. Smith's bold new critical study, have instead reenacted the Tower of Babel myth, producing a constitutional discourse marked by rampant confusion, elaborate sophistry, and thinly veiled authoritarian bullying. How is it that the pursuit of such lofty aims by yesterday's framers and today's scholars has left us mired in a constitutional morass? This timely book ponders that question with the intellectual vigor it deserves. Observing that standard accounts of constitutional law--both the "conservative" and "liberal" varieties--have lost their power to illuminate, The Constitution and the Pride of Reason explores how constitutional law hangs together (and how it falls apart) by investigating the perennial claim that the Constitution and its interpretation somehow embody a commitment to governance by "reason." What does this claim mean, and is it valid? In confronting these queries, Smith offers revealing and iconoclastic assessments of constitutionalists ranging from Madison and Jefferson to Dworkin and Bork. Also detailed in these pages is a provocative overview of the whole constitutional project, from its noble aspirations to its tragic failures. A truly visionary work that investigates the scholarship, the design, and the history of the quintessential American legal document, this volume also sensibly reflects on the meaning and possibility of the ethical commitment to the "life of reason." It will appeal not only to students of constitutional law but also to those interested in political science, philosophy, and American history.
- Publication Date:
- 25 / 11 / 1997