How Do We Redeem the Time?

By Griffin, Stephen M. | Texas Law Review, November 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

How Do We Redeem the Time?


Griffin, Stephen M., Texas Law Review


How Do We Redeem the Time? CONSTITUTIONAL REDEMPTION: POLITICAL FAITH IN AN UNJUST WORLD. By Jack M. Balkin. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2011. 304 pages. $35.00.

LIVING ORIGINALISM. By Jack M. Balkin. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 480 pages. $35.00.

In Constitutional Redemption and Living Originalism, Jack Balkin, one of our most prominent and engaging constitutional scholars, goes well beyond the ambitions of conventional constitutional theory to offer an encompassing vision of American constitutionalism.1 He presents comprehensive theories of constitutional change and interpretation (or construction) informed by often profound reflections on the religious themes of constitutional faith and redemption through law. The breadth of Balkin's vision makes a review of his work unusually challenging and invites a similarly encompassing response.

The two books overlap to a degree, and Constitutional Redemption, a collection of essays that lacks some of the coherence of Living Originalism, will be of principal interest mostly to scholars. Living Originalism deserves a wide audience and may well prove influential as it is a forceful and compelling statement of an imaginative approach to two different areas of constitutional theory. Balkin presents independent, though related, theories of constitutional change and interpretation. Taken together, they are meant to critique and replace theories of originalism based on the expectations of the founding generation and accounts of the "living Constitution" that downplay the legally binding character of the original semantic meaning of the text.

It is worth noticing from the outset that both of these books are deeply influenced by three undeniably significant social movements: those for civil rights for African Americans, women's rights, and gay rights. In fact, Balkin's work may be the most outstanding example of a constitutional theory largely patterned on these movements, which self-consciously sought to change previous understandings of the Constitution, principally but not exclusively through litigation in federal courts.

Both theories embody Balkin's belief that the relationship that citizens have to the Constitution is central to constitutional theory. This also shows the influence of Balkin's frequent collaborator Sanford Levinson,2 and Balkin draws on Levinson's well-known distinction between "protestant" and "catholic" approaches to constitutional interpretation to develop a new variant that we might describe as "judeo-protestant."3 This means exploring what is involved in a chosen people making a self-conscious commitment to a text that is designed to endure over many generations. It also means determinedly staying with a citizen's perspective on the meaning of the Constitution rather than taking the authoritative interpretations announced by the Supreme Court as primary.4 Like his Yale colleague Akhil Amar, Balkin emphasizes understanding the document over the doctrine.5 As such, constitutional catholics-those interested in considering the authority of existing legal doctrine and the institutions that created it, as well as the contemporary constitutional order as a whole-may have a harder time accepting Balkin's position.6

While I have some criticisms of Balkin's vision and theories, I should say from the beginning that I applaud his consistent advocacy of the centrality of constitutional change.7 As he states: "One of the most important problems in constitutional theory is accounting for, explaining, and justifying legitimate constitutional change."8 I also agree with Balkin's historicist approach toward change,9 although we might differ at the end of the day on what such a perspective involves. In addition, I should highlight Balkin's very suggestive insight that the Constitution is a project-a plan for government that achieves legitimacy over time.10 This is a useful corrective to many different views that converge on seeing what happened in the eighteenth century as crucial to legitimacy as well as interpretation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Do We Redeem the Time?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.