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Conservatives and the Constitution

Book description

Since the 1980s, a ritualized opposition in legal thought between a conservative 'originalism' and a liberal 'living constitutionalism' has obscured the aggressively contested tradition committed to, and mobilization of arguments for, constitutional restoration and redemption within the broader postwar American conservative movement. Conservatives and the Constitution is the first history of the political and intellectual trajectory of this foundational tradition and mobilization. By looking at the deep stories told either by identity groups or about what conservatives took to be flashpoint topics in the postwar period, Ken I. Kersch seeks to capture the developmental and integrative nature of postwar constitutional conservatism, challenging conservatives and liberals alike to more clearly see and understand both themselves and their presumed political and constitutional opposition. Conservatives and the Constitution makes a unique contribution to our understanding of modern American conservatism, and to the constitutional thought that has, in critical ways, informed and defined it.


'In this important book, Ken I. Kersch argues that conservative constitutional thought emerged from multiple streams that competed before conservatives gained political power in the 1980s and coalesced around originalism. Kersch offers a fascinating story of conservatives of all stripes arguing about how to rescue the Constitution from the scourge of liberalism and restore the country to its past greatness.'

Jack M. Balkin - Yale University, Connecticut

'Engagingly told, richly documented, Conservatives and the Constitution argues convincingly that the modern constitutional conservative movement was built over decades via multiple reinforcing stories of how America has declined, because it has abandoned the commitments to transcendental, indeed divine justice on which conservatives say it was founded. Liberals and progressives should take note if they wish to persuade at least some of those who doubt them that justice, as well as history, are on their side.'

Rogers M. Smith - Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

'In the age of Trump, it's nearly impossible to remember the visceral thrill that conservative ideas gave those of us who first encountered them in the 1980s. Ken I. Kersch skillfully reconstructs the deep sources of these ideas, how different forms of conservatism cross-pollenated each other, and how they all were shaped by the modern activist state they deplored. America needs a thoughtful conservatism again, and there's no better place to start in reconstructing it than with Kersch's magnificent work.'

Steven Teles - The Johns Hopkins University

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