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Recalibrating Reform: The Limits of Political Change [Hardcover]

Stuart Chinn

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Book Description

April 21 2014 1107057531 978-1107057531
Some of the most important eras of reform in U.S. history reveal a troubling pattern: often reform is compromised after the initial legislative and judicial victories have been achieved. Thus Jim Crow racial exclusions followed Reconstruction; employer prerogatives resurged after the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935; and after the civil rights reforms of the mid-twentieth century, principles of color-blindness remain dominant in key areas of constitutional law that allow structural racial inequalities to remain hidden or unaddressed. When momentous reforms occur, certain institutions and legal rights will survive the disruption and remain intact, just in different forms. Thus governance in the postreform period reflects a systematic recalibration or reshaping of the earlier reforms as a result of the continuing influence and power of such resilient institutions and rights. Recalibrating Reform examines this issue and demonstrates the pivotal role of the Supreme Court in postreform recalibration.

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"We celebrate great moments of legal change but fail to pay enough attention to the end of reform. Chinn's superb book challenges us all to rethink how courts apply, adjust, and sometimes frustrate landmark achievements of the people."
Robert L. Tsai, American University

"A remarkable and highly original book. Looking across the span of American history, Chinn identifies a recurring mismatch between major policy changes and their consequences: transformative legal and political decisions repeatedly result in substantially less-than-transformative governing arrangements. Chinn's innovative analysis will alter how scholars think about patterns of American political development and the significance of judicial power."
Keith J. Bybee, Paul E. and Hon. Joanne F. Alper '72 Judiciary Studies Professor, Syracuse University

"How do constitutional revolutions end? Chinn puts the spotlight on this much-neglected question and provides a penetrating set of answers that set a new agenda in both law and political science."
Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

"This ambitious book makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American political development. Stuart Chinn has given us our first sustained exploration of the institutional dynamics of retrenchment and accommodation between old and new and conservative and liberal legal-constitutional orders. With great synthetic power and brilliant narrative detail, Chinn shows us how the court recurrently steps in to manage these clashes and fashion the new rules of the game."
William E. Forbath, Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law and Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin

"Drawing on often opposed theories of judicial behavior and extensive historical research, Recalibrating Reform contends forcefully that judges, even the reform minded, are institutionally conditioned to resist major legal transformations - and so major political transformations. This convincing argument will influence scholars of judicial behavior and American constitutional development for years to come."
Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

"Recalibrating Reform is an illuminating work on the role of the US Supreme Court in social change. Stuart Chinn examines the aftermath of reform in the areas of race and labor, arguing that when the court takes up the intersection between new norms and preexisting legal frameworks, it narrows reform to negotiate between prior laws and the new regime. The court's effort to manage legal tension, Chinn argues, limits the possibilities of reform through courts. An original and important contribution."
Mary L. Dudziak, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law, Emory University

Book Description

This book examines a pattern of conservative resurgence following several eras of reform in American history by pointing to the phenomenon of "recalibration". It demonstrates the difficulty of achieving substantive political change in American politics, as elements of the old political order tend to find ways to survive and reassert themselves after reform. By highlighting recalibration as a regular companion to reform, the book ultimately sheds light on the barriers to, and possibilities for, sweeping change in American politics.

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