1st Edition

Human Rights Of, By, and For the People How to Critique and Change the US Constitution

Edited By Keri Iyall Smith, Louis Edgar Esparza, Judith Blau Copyright 2017
    216 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Together, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights comprise the constitutional foundation of the United States. These—the oldest governing documents still in use in the world—urgently need an update, just as the constitutions of other countries have been updated and revised. Human Rights Of, By, and For the People brings together lawyers and sociologists to show how globalization and climate change offer an opportunity to revisit the founding documents. Each proposes specific changes that would more closely align US law with international law. The chapters also illustrate how constitutions are embedded in society and shaped by culture. The constitution itself sets up contentious relationships among the three branches of government and between the federal government and each state government, while the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments begrudgingly recognize the civil and political rights of citizens. These rights are described by legal scholars as "negative rights," specifically as freedoms from infringements rather than as positive rights that affirm personhood and human dignity. The contributors to this volume offer "positive rights" instead. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), written in the middle of the last century, inspires these updates. Nearly every other constitution in the world has adopted language from the UDHR.

    The contributors use intersectionality, critical race theory, and contemporary critiques of runaway economic inequality to ground their interventions in sociological argument.


    1. Constituting Human Rights in the US by Keri E. Iyall Smith


    2. Why Revise by Judith R. Blau

    3. Beginning the World Again: Social Movements and the Challenge of Constitutional Change by Ben Manski

    4. A Place Called Liberty by Rodney D. Coates


    5. Wherefore "The Despotism of the Petticoat"? American Women, Gender, and Constitutional Omissions by Susan C. Pearce and Kathleen B. Basile 

    6. Human Dignity and Equality: Freedoms and Rights, Protection, Fairness, and Security by Judith R. Blau

    7. Beyond Welfare, Workfare, and Employment: For a Basic Income as a Constitutional Amendment by Steven Panageotou

    8. Preserving Economic Security: Housing, Food, and Medical Care by Steven Foy

    9. What Latin America and the Caribbean Teach the United States about Constitutionalizing Environmental Human Rights by K. Russell Shekha and Leah Edwards

    10. Revise Now! by Judith R. Blau


    11. Why a Sociology of Human Rights? by Mark Frezzo

    12. The Constitution Project: Implementing a Group Projects Structure by Davita Silfen Glasberg

    13. For a Decolonized US Constitution – Keri E. Iyall Smith

    14. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as Constitutional Model by Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsberg and James Melton

    15. Rewrite for Rights: Creating a Modern Constitution by Judith R. Blau

    Appendix 1. Bill of Rights and Subsequent Amendments

    Appendix 2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights













    Keri E. Iyall Smith is Associate Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts and is author of The State and Indigenous Movements (Routledge).

    Louis Edgar Esparza is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at California State University at Los Angeles.

    Judith R. Blau is Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, retiring in 2014 after a teaching career that spanned forty-five years.