Is Originalism Too Conservative?

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Politics

June 1, 2012

Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 34 (2011): 29

Originalism as an approach to constitutional theory and constitutional interpretation is often associated with conservative politics. Is originalism a principled theory of constitutional interpretation, or is it merely a cover for reaching politically conservative results in court? Is originalism theoretically interesting independent of its connection to conservative politics? This essay argues that originalism is a principled theory of constitutional interpretation and not merely a rationalization for conservatism. The association of conservative politics with originalism is not accidental, however, and conservatives are often likely to find originalism to be a more normatively attractive approach to constitutional interpretation than liberals generally will. Focusing on originalist theory rather than judicial decision-making, this essay considers the ways in which originalism intersects with conservatism and the ways in which originalism might diverge from conservatism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 13

Keywords: originalism, constitutional interpretation, judicial review, conservatism, Reagan, Scalia

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Date posted: June 6, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., Is Originalism Too Conservative? (June 1, 2012). Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 34 (2011): 29. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2072638

Contact Information

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)
Princeton University - Department of Politics ( email )
Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~kewhitt/
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