Jack Balkin’s Constitutional Faith
Public Law, pp. 443-9, 2013
11 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2013 Last revised: 10 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 4, 2013
This paper is a review of two books by Jack M. Balkin on the United States Constitution, the interpretive practices that surround it, and its place in American culture. The paper offers a commentary ‘from abroad’ on Balkin’s sophisticated perspective on the Constitution in its cultural context and in American political life; it focuses in particular on his discussion of the possibilities and problems of maintaining a popular faith in and a professional commitment to the Constitution as the fundamental underpinning of the American polity. Balkin highlights the intensely quasi-religious aura that often surrounds the US Constitution – a phenomenon that, to foreign observers, often seems hard to understand. This commentary applauds Balkin’s emphasis on cultural bases of law but queries how far the religious analogies of redemption that he uses to reinterpret constitutional faith in a critical yet affirmative way, can offer a secure foundation and reliable guidance for constitutional practice to meet an uncertain political future.
Keywords: United States Constitution; constitutional culture; constitutional interpretation; constitutional faith; political legitimacy; popular sovereignty, legal profession, public opinion.
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