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The Invisible Constitution (Inalienable Rights)


The Invisible Constitution (Inalienable Rights) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

As everyone knows, the United States Constitution is a tangible, visible document. Many see it in fact as a sacred text, holding no meaning other than that which is clearly visible on the page. Yet as renowned legal scholar Laurence Tribe shows, what is not written in the Constitution plays a key role in its interpretation. Indeed some of the most contentious Constitutional debates of our time hinge on the extent to which it can admit of divergent readings.

In The Invisible Constitution, Tribe argues that there is an unseen constitution--impalpable but powerful--that accompanies the parchment version. It is the visible document's shadow, its dark matter: always there and possessing some of its key meanings and values despite its absence on the page. As Tribe illustrates, some of our most cherished and widely held beliefs about constitutional rights are not part of the written document, but can only be deduced by piecing together hints and clues from it. Moreover, some passages of the Constitution do not even hold today despite their continuing existence. Amendments may have fundamentally altered what the Constitution originally said about slavery and voting rights, yet the old provisos about each are still in the text, unrevised. Through a variety of historical episodes and key constitutional cases, Tribe brings to life this invisible constitution, showing how it has evolved and how it works. Detailing its invisible structures and principles, Tribe compellingly demonstrates the invisible constitution's existence and operative power.

Remarkably original, keenly perceptive, and written with Tribe's trademark analytical flair, this latest volume in Oxford's Inalienable Rights series offers a new way of understanding many of the central constitutional debates of our time.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.


Renowned legal scholar Tribe argues that there is an unseen constitution--impalpable but powerful--that accompanies the parchment version, in the latest volume in Oxford's Inalienable Rights series.

About the Author

Laurence H. Tribe is Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard University. He has published more than 100 books and articles, including American Constitutional Law, On Reading the Constitution, and Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes. In addition, he has argued more than three dozen cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and has frequently testified before Congress on a broad range of constitutional issues.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note



Part I: Beyond the Visible

Identifying "The Constitution"

Distinguishing "The Constitution" From "Constitutional Law"

Remembering Ours is a "Written" Constitution

The Variable Role of Interpretive Judicial Precedent

The "Dark Matter"

Part II: Defining the Terrain

Invisibility Defined

Not Necessarily an Ideal Constitution

Constitutional Axioms and Constitutional Theorems

The Politics of Constitutional Invisibility

This Book's Mission: Making Invisibility Visible

Supreme Law, Not the Supreme Court

The Constitution's Architecture, Not its "Construction"

Part III: Explorations Beyond the Text

Invisibility Exemplified: The Moving Finger Writes

Cleo's Claims

Doubling Back: The Holistic Reading Rule

Two Types of Extratextual Norms

Invisibility Illuminated: A Government of Laws

Invisibility Elaborated: Government of the People, By the People, For the People

Invisibility Further Illustrated: Suspending Habeas Corpus

Federalism - and "the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms"

States as Sovereigns?

Part IV: The Content of Liberty and Equality and the Boundaries of Government Power

The "Substantive Due Process" Conundrum

The Jagged Road to Equality

The Reapportionment Revolution

Lochner and Selective "Incorporation"

From Liberty of Contract to Forms of Self-Government

Intimate Association and Private Self-Government

The Maintenance of Boundaries: From Territoriality to Privacy

Part V: Visualizing the Invisible

Once Again: The Ninth Amendment's Rule of Construction

The Inescapable Role of Constitutional "Dark Matter"

The Analogy to Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem

Organizing the Constitution's "Dark Matter"

Illustrations following page 156

1. Geometric Construction

2. Geodesic Construction

3. Global Construction

4. Geological Construction

5. Gravitational Construction

6. Gyroscopic Construction

Geometric Construction

Time's Geometry

A Libertarian Presumption

Lochner's Legacy Revisited

Geodesic Construction

Global Construction

Geological Construction

Gravitational Construction

Gyroscopic Construction

Coda: Concluding Observations


The Visible Constitution: Its Text and Accompanying Resolutions

The Declaration of Independence


Product Details

Tribe, Lawrence
Oxford University Press, USA
Tribe, Laurence H.
null, Laurence H.
Constitutional law
United states
Civil Rights
Constitutional law -- United States.
Law | Constitutional Law
Inalienable Rights
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
16 halftones
5.5 x 8.3 x 0.9 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Law » Civil Liberties and Human Rights
History and Social Science » Law » Constitutional Law
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » Documents

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Product details 304 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780195304251 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Renowned legal scholar Tribe argues that there is an unseen constitution--impalpable but powerful--that accompanies the parchment version, in the latest volume in Oxford's Inalienable Rights series.
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