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America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By
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America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Despite its venerated place atop American law and politics, our written Constitution does not enumerate all of the rules and rights, principles and procedures that actually govern modern America. The document makes no explicit mention of cherished concepts like the separation of powers and the rule of law. On some issues, the plain meaning of the text misleads. For example ...more
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Basic Books
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Max Nova
Akhil Amar’s “America’s Unwritten Constitution” is an accessible and well-executed book that lays out how Amar thinks about the Constitution. By interpreting the document in terms of its historical context throughout many periods of American history, Amar guides the reader through his own internally consistent and lucid understanding of the Constitution.

Most of the book is individual case studies (grouped by broad topics), although towards the end Amar makes several strong recommendations regard
...more
Socraticgadfly
Good, but not nearly as good as all the fluffing reviews crack it up to be. And, it's got a couple of specific problems.

It's perhaps a 3.5 star, but, I'm moving down rather than up a half star.

Among its problems?

Amar claims that the Constitution enshrines 2-party government. No it doesn't, not even after the 12th Amendment. Even taking into account his definition of an unwritten Constitution, it doesn't, not from where I sit. Things like the requirement for members of the Federal Election Commis
...more
Stephanie McCown
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Thus begins the document upon which our nation's legal structure is built. I found this book to be intriguing because, as much as we revere the written Constitution, ther
...more
Louis
Akhil Amar’s America’s Unwritten Constitution takes a different approach to constitutional interpretation. Instead of falling somewhere on the literalism—living constitution dichotomy, Amar emphasizing looking at the “implicit constitution” and brings a different perspective to the famous Mcculloch vs. Maryland . Amar argues that the decision also lays the foundation for looking at the implicit part of the constitution.

In other words, the fact that not every possible issue is addressed is no
...more
Naomi
It is a good thing to think about our assumptions and beliefs about what the U.S. Constitution really says and the developed body of interpretation, tradition, and practice that is the Constitution in action. Hopefully, readers will have a stronger sense of both the history and tradition and the responsibility for continued interpretation that keeps the Constitution a relevant and living document creating an America in which diverse peoples may live and thrive together.
Dennis Stimson
Outstanding and even I could comprehend the authors reasoning. Well written and great information to consider. I enjoy Mr.Amar's clear and incisive way of explaining ideas.
Arun
Jan 18, 2015 Arun rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: legal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Buck Ward
I heard an interview with the author on NPR. The boo sounded quite interesting, so I requested it from my local public library. It took several weeks but they acquired it and I borrowed it. This book offers a detailed account of how the U.S. Constitution is interpreted based on Supreme court decisions and the changing times. It is not just an historical discussion, but it is peppered with the author's opinions. Yes, it was quite interesting, but I think it would be considerable more relevant to ...more
Mary
Textualist techniques for interpreting the Constitution. Amar is the nation's leading textualist and is often cited by the originalist and sometimes textualist Justices Scalia and Thomas. Some of the techniques are reading the document as a whole, considering the implications of how it and the Amendments were enacted, taking into account the changing realities of how Americans actually live, looking to other iconic texts and relying on judicial precedent.
Not included are two of the most sensibl
...more
Miriam
A wonderful description of components of the unwritten constitution and analysis showing the bond between it and the written Constitution. Amar's love for constitutional law comes through throughout the book. The last chapter, however, where he tries to anticipate future changes to the written Constitution fails. There, the book ceases to be about law and instead does a light comparison between the federal and state constitutions and then engages in advocacy.
Joan
Though I believe that big data should replace "reading between the lines" it was a good book.
Evan Macbeth
A fantastic overview of constitutional interpretation, with a clear agenda, but presented honestly and transparently. This is the best "civics" book I've read since studying Government at UVA.
Ron Tenney
This book is not an easy read. Not that the author lacks talent in telling the story of the "lived constitution" but that depth and number of issues discussed is a bit overwhelming. The points made can be a bit technical and sometimes the chapters tend to meander around a bit. I am surely commenting more on my abitlity to stay focused and grasp this material than on the subject matter or the author. I am setting aside for a while.
12/22/12
Brian
I think this book was much longer than it needed to be, and I don't think I will be reading another book by this author, but I did learn a lot from reading this book. For example, the book really informs the readers about just how important the Civil War and the reconstruction amendments to the Constitution were in making the U.S. what it is today, and I never realized that prior to reading this book.
Dave Mcmahon
The book is very interesting, but not accessible to the beggining reader. One must be versed with law to understand much of it. You learn a lot through the pages, but its a gruesome reading.

One bad side, the author keeps judging the Supreme Court judgement in a way like his own opinions are always right and the judges always less brilliant than him.
Dave Peticolas
Absolutely wonderful book. The author examines the American Constitution and the set of unwritten rules, precedents, and conventions without which we could not make sense of the literal text, but which do not supplant the text itself. Reading this book is a serene joy.
Jennifer Lea
The book started very strong, with a great intro to Con Law. Very quickly you realize that this book is the author's attempt to prove to the world that he is just as great as, and even more knowledgeable than, the Justices of the Supreme Court. It was just too much...
Paul
Scholarly but approachable history of how the terse text of the Constitution intersects with common practice, political & social evolution, institutional momentum, and the collective conscience of We the People. Recommended.
Danielle
Sep 25, 2012 Danielle marked it as to-read
Shelves: scholarly
Another author I heard interviewed by NPR's Diane Rehm. He was super interesting, explaining the context and implications of all kinds of important Supreme Court decisions. A Must Read.
whatisbrain
Another fine book by Prof Amar, recommended reading for anyone with any interest in constitutional law (read 'America's Constitution: A Biography' first though).
Ben
Very thought provoking and interesting (if occasionally dry) history of how interpretation of the US Constitution has changed with the times.
Sean Vangordon
Very interesting book, and an excellent exploration of constitutional principles.
Tom Dillickrath
Tries to prove too much, but engaging and well structured, if repetitious.
Kaesha
Long and painful. Good luck, Publius II.
Mills College Library
342.73029 A485 2012
MINDAUGAS
MINDAUGAS marked it as to-read
May 05, 2015
Dan
Dan marked it as to-read
Apr 30, 2015
Jason Smith
Jason Smith marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2015
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Akhil Reed Amar is currently Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. He received his B.A, summa cum laude, in 1980 from Yale College, and his J.D. in 1984 from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of The Yale Law Journal. After clerking for Judge Stephen Breyer, he joined the Yale fac ...more
More about Akhil Reed Amar...
America's Constitution: A Biography The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights The Bill of Rights Primer The Constitution and Criminal Procedure: First Principles

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