Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival
As the leading legal voice of the American conservative movement, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has challenged the assumptions and legal methodology of American liberals. In this thorough and exacting study of the development of Justice Scalia's legal principles, Richard Brisbin explores the foundation and elaboration of the justice's conservative political vision. After reviewing Scalia's legal experiences before joining the Supreme Court and describing the influences on his political and legal thought, Brisbin undertakes a detailed analysis of Scalia's Supreme Court voting record and opinions. The conservative philosophy emerging from Scalia's legal decisions, Brisbin argues, assumes the legitimacy and propriety of political regimes functioning under the rule of law. It disciplines—sometimes harshly—inappropriate uses of liberty and accepts the proposition that the law can serve as an effective means to structure, interpret, and control political conflicts. The most comprehensive study of Justice Scalia's politics and jurisprudence yet published, Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival joins a vital discussion on contemporary American conservatism and the use of the law to restrain or undermine the New Deal state.
About the Author
Richard A. Brisbin, Jr., associate professor of political science at West Virginia University, is co-author of West Virginia Politics and Government.
Brisbin's book on Scalia draws upon all of these traditions and more, aspiring to be a comprehensive, almost biographical effort to explain the elements influencing the Justice's decision-making and the make-up of his political vision. Rich in voting data and inclusive in discussing Scalia's most important Court of Appeals and Supreme Court decisions, the book offers many fine arguments and observations.
Richard Brisbin shows us another reason why Justice Scalia is unpopular in certain precincts: In a time of value-relativism and militant identity politics, he is the leading exponent of Enlightenment beliefs. Justice Scalia's jurisprudence, Mr. Brisbin shows, seeks to protect our property from bureaucrats, to require that people be treated as individuals rather than as representatives of a class or race, and to use the rule of law as a restraint against disorder and conflict. As an advocate of postmodernism and a proud egalitarian, Mr. Brisbin appears to deplore these results, but he has the fairness to acknowledge that Justice Scalia is a tenacious exponent of the politics of reason that the Framers bequeathed to us through a written constitution.
Brisbin argues that Justice Scalia's jurisprudence values order and stability over pragmatism and experiment, relying on a majoritarian view rather than on any nucleus of founding principles embedded in the Constitution... He concludes that the language of Scalia's legal opinions reinforces a politics of inequality by excluding the effect of social and economic factors on equality under the law.
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