Can Constitutionalism Be Leftist

23 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2007 Last revised: 7 Feb 2011

Date Written: February 4, 2011


In this essay, written for a symposium on the work of Mark Tushnet, I examine Tushnet's effort to defend popular constitutionalism in his powerful and subtle book entitled "A Taking the Constitution Away from the Courts," I ask whether the book succeeds in reconciling constitutionalism with leftism. If there is anyone who could accomplish this task, it is Tushnet. He is without question our most thoughtful constitutional leftist. And yet, the book, at least taken at face value, fails to achieve its goal. To the extent that the book argues for constitutionalism, it abandons leftism, and to the extent it is leftist, it abandons constitutionalism. Tushnet's proposal can be both leftist and constitutional only by reconceiving what constitutionalism amounts to in ways I suggest at the conclusion of the essay. The failure to reconcile leftism with constitutionalism as it is more commonly understood teaches us something important: If Tushnet cannot produce this synthesis, then no one can.

Keywords: Critical legal studies, judicial review, constitutionalism, popular constitutionalism, leftism

Suggested Citation

Seidman, Louis Michael, Can Constitutionalism Be Leftist (February 4, 2011). Quinnipiac Law Review, Vol. 26, 2008, Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 999574, Available at SSRN: or

Louis Michael Seidman (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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