Exciting Upcoming Symposium on Jack Balkin’s Constitutional Redemption
We are thrilled to announce that in early August we will hold an online symposium on Jack Balkin’s book Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World (Harvard University Press 2011). From August 1 to August 4, an all-star cast of constitutional scholars will join our crew to discuss Balkin’s important book, including:
The Concurring Opinions crew plans on joining the discussion, including Lawrence Cunningham, Gerard Magliocca, Frank Pasquale, and Daniel Solove. I’m hoping this post gives you a chance to read Professor Balkin’s book. Constitutional Redemption is a rewarding read. It builds on themes of faith, narrative, and redemption, arguing that what makes the U.S. Constitution legitimate is our enduring faith that the Constitution’s promises can someday be redeemed, that our constitutional system will be made a “more perfect union.” As Harvard Press’ description of the book explains:
Balkin argues eloquently that the American constitutional project is based in faith, hope, and a narrative of shared redemption. Our belief that the Constitution will deliver us from evil shows in the stories we tell one another about where our country came from and where it is headed, and in the way we use these historical touchstones to justify our fervent (and opposed) political creeds. Because Americans have believed in a story of constitutional redemption, we have assumed the right to decide for ourselves what the Constitution means, and have worked to persuade others to set it on the right path. As a result, constitutional principles have often shifted dramatically over time. They are, in fact, often political compromises in disguise.
What will such a Constitution become? We cannot know. But our belief in the legitimacy of the Constitution requires a leap of faith—a gamble on the ultimate vindication of a political project that has already survived many follies and near-catastrophes, and whose destiny is still over the horizon.
Constitutional fidelity recognizes that we are imperfect, that interpretations can be evil, but that our faith, our bet, in its possibilities is worth it. It’s a brilliant book, one that reminds me of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand, and Stars when he writes (I’m paraphrasing here) that love does not consist of gazing into each other’s eyes but outward together in the same higher effort. In this way, the Constitutional project is a leap of faith of citizens gazing outward, but bound and building on the past, in the same higher effort of a more perfect union. Read it and we will be back for more in August.