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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 25, 2004
Latest Update: July 25, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site America Defining Itself


I wanted to share this reading with you as an example of the law's approach to understanding law, social issues, status politics, the family, race and gender. I chose a text by a constitutional lawyer, one who taught at UCLAW when I was there. This is just one approach, but it will give you tools for understanding others.


I would like you to come away from these shared readings (there will be many, since this is the text for the graduate section of our course) with a sense of the extent to which all the social spheres of which Habermas speaks are integrated. We cannot talk about the system of finance without talking about the distribution of wealth, without talking about poverty, without talking about how poverty enters into the definition of both family issues and the criminal justice system. Everything is inter-related.


The source text for this reading is Kenneth Karst's Law's Promise, Law's Expression: Visions of Power in the Politices of Race, Gender, and Religion.. Yale University Press. 1993. ISBN:0-300-05760-1.

Preface "The power of law was a notable preoccupation of the 'social issues agenda' of President's Ronald Reagan and Goerge Bush. Give the agenda's apparent effectiveness in presidential campaingns through 1988, there was little surprise in 1992 when some politicians turned the volume even louder: 'We are America. These other people are not America." (1) That strategy proved counterproductivve, but even now parts of the social issues agenda retain power.From its earliest uses, antedating President Reagan's election by some two decades, the agenda has promoted a politics centered on the status of social groups. The target audiences have been voters who have felt left out, even threatened, by various social changes following the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s: the secularization ofthe state and the successes of the civil rights movement, the womens movement, and the gay rights movement. In seeking to weld these voters into anationwide sonstituency, the promoters of the social issues agenda have promised to use the power of government, and particularly the powe4r of law, to restore major parts of an earlier day's social order."

more soon . . .


  • Richard Bond, chair of the Republican National Committee, at the party's national convention in 1992, quoted in Estrich, "Practicing Politics of Exclusion," Los Angeles Times, Atug. 23, 1992, M1, col.1. After the election, in his last speech to the committee, Bond 'offered a frank admission of mistakes and urged the party to soften its righid opposition to abourtion, gay rights and other issue dear to social conservatives.' Brau, "Barbour Elected Chief of a Divided GOP,' ibid, Jan. 30, 1993,, A14, col.1.

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