Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Cited by 13
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2019
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

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.


Winner, 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Winner 2020 C. Herman Pritchett Award from the Law and Courts section of the American Political Science Association.


'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

'… this book makes an important contribution. Kersch promises not just one but two future sequels focused on conservative arguments on specific constitutional issues. If this initial volume is any indication, both will be essential reading.'

R. J. Meagher Source: Choice

‘… Conservatives and the Constitution: Imagining Constitutional Restoration in the Heyday of American Liberalism, Ken I. Kersch has left his mark on this popular area of political science inquiry. … will prove to be an invaluable resource for social scientists and legal scholars interested in discovering diverse strands of modern American conservatism. As a rich, accessible, and abbreviated 'Who’s Who Encyclopedia of Modern American Conservatism,' the book succeeds.’

Paul Baumgardner Source: American Politics

‘The book is a multi-layered tour de force explanation of the rise and unification of the conservative legal movement. It is a wide-ranging intellectual history of the birth and evolution of ideas, written in the best tradition of American Political Development studies. The book is dense in every positive sense and Kersch promises that this is just the first of a trilogy.’

Richard L. Pacelle Source: Law and Politics Book Review

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.