Theme Panel: Great Transformations in Constitutional Law


Theme Panel: Great Transformations in Constitutional Law

Sat, September 3, 10:00 to 11:30am

The theme for this year’s APSA Annual Meeting invites us to consider the “great transformations” that have marked politics in our time. Political theorists are asked to evaluate, inter alia, the major shifts that have marked normative reasoning about the institutions and processes which order our collective political lives at present. In keeping with the theme of this year’s meeting, the papers on this proposed panel seek to determine the normative significance of number of momentous recent transformations in a field of central importance to political theorists and political scientists alike – that of constitutional law.

  • In her paper on “Political Interpretation,” Mariah Zeisberg evaluates a body of work which defends politicized interpretations of constitutional texts, and thus marks a great transformation in the scholarship on constitutional interpretation. Zeisberg notes, in her account, that it has long been a commonplace premise among political scientists that judges allow their decisions to be influenced by political considerations.
  • In his paper titled “The Structural Articulation of ‘Equal Dignity,’” Connor Ewing offers a genealogy, and assesses the impact, of the concept of “equal dignity” that the Supreme Court relied upon in its recent decision in Obergefell v Hodges to declare a constitutional right, under the Fourteenth Amendment, for same-sex couples to marry.
  • In a paper titled “Domination, Democracy, and Constitutional Political Economy: Towards a Fourth Wave of Legal Realism,” Sabeel Rahman argues that the great transformations that have characterized the political economy of the United States in the years following the financial crisis also demand concomitantly great transformations in constitutional law. In particular, Rahman argues, the problems which arise as a result of widening inequality and the growing concentration of political power among the economic elites require a fundamental reordering of the core tenets of contemporary constitutional jurisprudence, as instantiated in the Roberts Court’s decisions concerning economic regulation, campaign finance law, and labor rights.
  • In a paper entitled “The Harm in Hate Speech Regulation,” Prithviraj Datta takes up for critique an emerging body of normative scholarship which argues for the restriction of hate speech on liberal democratic grounds. In recent work, scholars such as Jeremy Waldron, Rae Langton, and Mari Matsuda have argued that hate speech subordinates those subject to it, and thus deserves to be censored by liberal societies which accord central importance to human dignity.

View in the 2016 Online Program.

Chair: Adam Lebovitz
Discussant: Sonu Bedi, Dartmouth College

Political Interpretation, Mariah Zeisberg, University of Michigan
The Structural Articulation of ‘Equal Dignity,’ Connor Ewing, University of Texas, Austin
Domination, Democracy, and Constitutional Political Economy, K Sabeel Rahman, Brooklyn Law School
The Harm in Hate Speech Regulation, Prithviraj Datta, Stanford University