Synopses & Reviews
American history can be traced in part through the words of the majority decisions in landmark Supreme Court cases. Now, for the first time, one of the most distinguished Supreme Court scholars has gathered famous dissents as he considers a provocative question: how might our history appear now if these cases in the highest court in the country had turned out differently?
The surprising answer Tushnet offers: not all that different. Tushnet introduces and explains sixteen influential cases from throughout the Court's history, putting them into political context and offering a sense of what could have developed if the dissents were instead the majority opinions. Ultimately, Tushnet demonstrates that the words of Supreme Court justices are only one piece of a larger puzzle that defines what the Constitution means to us. We should not value their opinions over other pieces, such as social movements, politics, economics, and more.
Written in accessible and lively language, edited with a lay readership in mind, I Dissent offers an invaluable collection for anyone interested in American history and how we define constitutional rights. By placing the Supreme Court back into the framework of the government rather than viewing it as a near-sacred body issuing final decisions that cannot be questioned, Tushnet provides a radically fresh view of the judiciary and a new approach to reading the overlooked writings of major contentious figures from throughout American history.
An important reminder that strong challenges have been made to the best and worst in American constitutional development and that responsibility for the best lies as much in the citizenry as Supreme Courtjustices.
--Mark A. Graber, author of Dred Scott and the Problem of Constitutional Evil
"Harvard law professor Tushnet is a rigorous scholar, able to explain creative and often provocative constitutional theory in accessible language. He argues that, often, it is not the Supreme Court's majority opinion that prevails in the long run but that of the dissenters. To explain why this is true, Tushnet draws on the intriguing theory of 'popular constitutionalism' the idea that the long-term contours of constitutional law are determined not by the Supreme Court but by a popular consensus that emerges from the interaction of evolving conceptions of morality, legislative power, economic necessity and politics. And, Tushnet says, the high court's 'great dissenters' are those such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and William O. Douglas who anticipate the future consensus. In looking at dissents dealing with civil rights, school desegregation and the reach of government into consensual private conduct, Tushnet examines this process and the pitfalls that face justices trying to predict the future. Tushnet offers no small thing: a different way to think about the role of the Supreme Court in American life. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Mark Tushnet is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Previously a professor of law at Georgetown University and University of Wisconsin, Tushnet is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, A Court Divided. He lives in Washington, DC.