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American Constitutionalism:
From Theory to Politics
Stephen M. Griffin

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1997

Paperback | 1998 | $46.00 | £38.95 | ISBN: 9780691002408
228 pp. | 7 3/4 x 10 | 1 table
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400822126 |
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Reviews | Table of Contents

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Despite the outpouring of works on constitutional theory in the past several decades, no general introduction to the field has been available. Stephen Griffin provides here an original contribution to American constitutional theory in the form of a short, lucid introduction to the subject for scholars and an informed lay audience. He surveys in an unpolemical way the theoretical issues raised by judicial practice in the United States over the past three centuries, particularly since the Warren Court, and locates both theory and practices that have inspired dispute among jurists and scholars in historical context. At the same time he advances an argument about the distinctive nature of our American constitutionalism, regarding it as an instance of the interpenetration of law and politics.

American Constitutionalism is unique in considering the perspectives of both law and political science in relation to constitutional theory. Constitutional theories produced by legal scholars do not usually discuss state-centered theories of American politics, the importance of institutions, behaviorist research on judicial decision making, or questions of constitutional reform, but this book takes into account the political science literature on these and other topics. The work also devotes substantial attention to judicial review and its relationship to American democracy and theories of constitutional interpretation.


"Steven M. Griffin...has written an excellent introduction to American constitutional theory that not only provides an overview of the legal academy's major contributions to constitutional theory, but also incorporates significant findings of political science and historical research on both American political development and judicial behavior....American Constitutionalism is a compelling work, one that admirably integrates disparate fields of inquiry and produces an energetic view of constitutional theory. It makes a significant contribution to constitutional theory and could set the agenda for a wide array of explorations into the normative and empirical dimensions of constitutional politics."--Douglas S. Reed, The Law and Politics Book Review

"[As] Stephen Griffin lucidly argues, the court has never managed to follow a consistent interpretative approach for long. . . . What cleverly emerges from Mr. Griffin's account is a view of the court not as the final arbiter on constitutional questions, but as only one element in a tripartite system of government designed to divide power and create friction between the three branches."--The Economist


"Written with an almost astonishing mixture of concision and accessibility, Griffin's book should be of interest to the informed general reader as well as to mature scholars."--Sanford Levinson, University of Texas, Austin

Table of Contents:

Introduction 3
1 American Constitutionalism 9
2 The Constitution and Political Institutions 59
3 Judicial Review and American Democracy 88
4 Problems of Constitutional Adjudication 125
5 Theories of Constitutional Interpretation 140
6 Constitutional Crisis and Reform 192
Index 213

This book has been translated into:

  • Italian

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