"Law's Promise, Law's Expression" by Kenneth L.              Karst

Law's Promise, Law's Expression Visions of Power in the Politics of Race, Gender, and Religion Kenneth L. Karst

Publication date:
27 Sep 1995
Yale University Press
334 pages: 235 x 156mm

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.

Chosen as an "Outstanding" book on the subject of human rights in North America for 1995 by The Gustavus Myers Center for the study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America

"Kenneth Karst combines reason and passion to expose the political uses of law that perpetuate social exclusions and inequalities. This book powerfully demonstrates why U.S. courts so often face conflicts caused by intolerance and why the cause of tolerance lies at the heart of our nation's well-being."?Martha Minow, Harvard Law School

"A brief but profound analysis of how the Reagan-Bush right has exploited the law to victimize women, gays, and ethnic minorities. . . . Challenging and intense?for all serious students of American culture."?Kirkus Reviews

"Thought-provoking in its breadth and suggestive in the diversity of its sources, Karst's work sets the stage for further and more in-depth consideration of each of the areas he explores."?Jean Preer, American Studies International

"The combined effect of all this description, rendered in generally good, clean prose, is sobering, to say the least. Karst has done his readers an incalculable service by bringing to the fore the full panoply of fronts...As a timely, well-organized treatment of the activities of one-half of the political spectrum, then, the book rates a solid 'A.' This book . . . is a spectacular, sound, engaging, and alarming work."?Richard Delgado, Michigan Law Review

"An elegantly written and compelling interpretation. . . . Professor Karst's description of this cultural counterrevolution is an extraordinary achievement."?Joel B. Grossman, Legal Studies Forum

"The footnoting and references are unusually strong and useful, and the writing style is clear and easy to follow for well-educated readers."?R. A. Carp, Choice

"The book's breadth and eclectic use of legal and academic sources, along with Karst's own meditations, make for a spirited narrative that may please readers interested in a knowledgeable critique of cultural conservatives' legal strategies."?Paul Lichterman, Contemporary Sociology

"A reasoned and cogent response to those who complain about the judicialization of politics. Karst demonstrates that the social issues agenda is inextricably bound up in law. This book is required reading for all those interested in the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and the counter revolution that informs so much of our national politics today."?Thomas Edsall, co-author of Chain Reaction