Law's Promise, Law's Expression (Paperback)

Visions of Power in the Politics of Race, Gender, and Religion

By Kenneth L. Karst

Yale University Press, 9780300065077, 334pp.

Publication Date: September 27, 1995

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The conservative "social issues agenda" is targeted to voters who have felt left out, even threatened, by the successes of the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the gay rights movement. The agenda centers on the expressive capacities of law and promises a cultural counterrevolution. It evokes visions of an earlier social order in which most citizens who were black or female or gay stayed "in their place"—and the place was a subordinate one. In this lively and provocative book, a constitutional law scholar argues eloquently that most of the social issues agenda for law violates the constitutional principle of equal citizenship.

Kenneth Karst, author of the prize-winning Belonging to America: Equal Citizenship and the Constitution, discusses a broad range of controversial issues, from street crime to pornography, from school prayers to sodomy, from abortion to welfare to the participation of women and gays in the armed forces. In most of these areas of law the social issues agenda sounds a persistent theme: an ideology of masculinity that treats power as its own justification and equates the proof of manhood with the expression of dominance. Translating this ideology into law raises grave constitutional questions. In the social-issues contexts of race, gender, sexuality, and religion, Karst argues, judicial review of governmental action should focus on concerns for the full inclusion of all Americans in the national community.