Monday, February 15, 2010

Michael Kent Curtis Reviews Eloquence and Reason

Michael Kent Curtis of Wake Forest University School of Law reviews Eloquence and Reason for the Northwestern University Law Review. Among other thoughtful criticisms of this "remarkable book," Professor Curtis wonders whether linguistic transformations in First Amendment law are "simply . . . an indicator that constitutional change is taking place" rather than an account of that change. He finds that Tsai's theory of linguistic regimes "has undoubted descriptive value," but wants to know more about how external forces shape a regime, how a regime affects interpretation, and to what extent it is actually correlated to popular will.

Even so, the book's insights regarding "the role of rhetoric in constitutional development are richly illustrated by examples from free speech law." Professor Curtis concludes:
This book, with its illuminating emphasis on rhetoric and metaphor, is of great value for lawyers, for all who study the law, and for ordinary people as they construct and employ arguments about our fundamental rights. Whether or not one accepts Professor Tsai's conclusion that constitutional discourse inside and outside of the courts is and should be a form of politics, his study has implications for all who care about constitutional issues. The struggle to preserve or advance a constitutional vision cannot safely be left to judges. It is a struggle in which all citizens have an interest, and all have a legitimate role in the dialogue. That is a central point of this very fine book, and it is a point we should never forget.
To read the full review, go here.