A Citizen's Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court: Constitutional Conflict in American Politics, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Citizen's Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court

Constitutional Conflict in American Politics, 1st Edition

By Morgan Marietta


204 pages

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Paperback: 9780415843812
pub: 2013-07-17
Hardback: 9780415843799
pub: 2013-07-31
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eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203755778
pub: 2013-08-15
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The U.S. Constitution is a blueprint for a free society as well as a source of enduring conflict over how that society must be governed. The competing ways of reading our founding document shape the decisions of the Supreme Court, which acts as the final voice on constitutional questions. This breezy, concise guide explains the central conflicts that frame our constitutional controversies, written in clear non-academic language to serve as a resource for engaged citizens, both inside and outside of an academic setting.

After covering the main points of conflict in constitutional law, Marietta gives readers an overview of the perspectives from the leading schools of constititional interpretation--textualism, common law constitutionalism, originalism, and living constitutionalism. He then walks through the points of conflict and competing schools of thought in the context of several landmark cases and ends with advice to readers on how to interpret constitutional issues ourselves.


"In A Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court, Morgan Marietta presents a creative and insightful analysis of the process of constitutional interpretation. He communicates that analysis with impressive clarity, and this book will be a valuable resource for those who seek to gain a better understanding of the Supreme Court and the Constitution."

—Lawrence Baum, Ohio State University

"Marietta has drafted an engaging, comprehensive, and accessible guide to how the Constitution has been and could be read. In thoughtful and often humorous prose, this book provides insight on the key constitutional questions that have animated many of our historical and contemporary conflicts about what our Constitution should mean and how it might guide us to answers for some of our most politically-charged conflicts. Indeed, the book calls us all to account—learn how to read and understand your Constitution if you want to indeed be a full citizen in this republic. If Ben Franklin once said that the constitutional Framers offered this country ‘A Republic, if you can keep it,’ then Marietta offers a guide as to how that Republic might be kept."

—Stephen M. Engel, Bates College

A Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court is a superbly written, scholarly analysis of the major points of disagreement and schools of interpretation that inform the robust constitutional conflict that permeates contemporary American politics. The book is balanced and nuanced and is an important contribution for scholars, students, and the informed public. It demonstrates the author’s mature understanding of constitutional law, theory, and the Supreme Court.”

—Ronald Kahn, Oberlin College

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Constitution and Bong Hits for Jesus; 1. The Core Disagreement: How Should We Read the Constitution?; Part I: Points of Conflict. 2. Judicial Review: Is it Legitimate and Expansive, or Questionable and Limited?; 3. Rights: Are They Individual or Collective?; 4. Federalism: Must We Have One National Standard?; 5. Liberty: Does the Constitution Invoke Ordered Liberty or Pure Liberty?; 6. Religion: Is the Constitution a Religious or Secular Document?; 7. Transcendence: Do Transcendent Principles Exist in the Constitution?; 8. Social Facts: Should the Court Move Ahead of Society or Wait for Social Change?; 9. Precedent: Should We Follow or Break From the History of the Court?; 10. Completeness: What Else Do We Need to Read?; Part II: Schools of Interpretation. 11. Textualism; 12. Common Law Constitutionalism; 13. Originalism; 14. Living Constitutionalism; 15. Comparing Schools of Interpretation; 16. Points of Conflict & Schools of Thought in a Landmark Case: Roe v. Wade; 17. Contemporary Landmark Cases: From Phelps to Obamacare; Conclusion: Reading the Constitution for Ourselves.

About the Author

Morgan Marietta is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the author of A Citizen's Guide to American Ideology and The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric.

About the Series

Citizen Guides to Politics and Public Affairs

Each book in this series is framed around a significant but not well-understood subject that is integral to citizens'--both students and the general public--full understanding of politics and participation in public affairs. In accessible language, these titles provide readers with the tools for understanding the root issues in political life. Individual volumes are brief and engaging, written in short readable chapters without extensive citations or footnoting. Together they are part of an essential library to equip us all for fuller engagement with the issues of our times.

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