Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law. By David Cole. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books. 2016. Pp. viii, 307. $27.99. Sea changes in constitutional law are difficult to predict and still harder to create. Decades and even centuries of precedent weigh heavily against legal revisions, but some of the Court’s recent high-profile decisions do confirm one thing about jurisprudential shifts: they do not occur in a vacuum. Engines of Liberty presents the battles for gay marriage, the individual right to bear arms, and the rights of wartime detainees from the perspective of the victors, who pursued change both within the courtroom and without. In each case, the road to liberty was well trod by civil society organizations like Freedom to Marry, the National Rifle Association, and the Center for Constitutional Rights — nonprofit groups that mapped out their successes in the Supreme Court by first achieving incremental gains in international law, state law, the media, and public opinion. These seismic shifts in American jurisprudence illustrate that arguing black-letter law in court “is only a small part of what lawyers and nonlawyers must do to make their constitutional visions a reality” (p. 9). Professor David Cole’s exposition of the forces behind some of the most significant recent Supreme Court decisions is an engaging starting point for citizens seeking to steer the course of constitutional law, and with it, the nation.
Politics Against Domination. By Ian Shapiro. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2016. Pp. xii, 273. $35.00. In 1999, Professor Ian Shapiro published Democratic Justice, which analyzed civil institutions through the lens of the human instinct to resist domination. Shapiro’s newest book, Politics Against Domination, makes good on his promise to pen a volume applying that same analytical lens to public institutions. In fulfilling that pledge, Shapiro takes readers on a tour of domestic and international politics, current and historical events, and a wide range of scholarly fields. Shapiro marshals diverse examples to argue that majoritarian democracy is the political system best suited to combating domination, while also asserting that antidomination efforts create the strongest basis from which to pursue other societal goals. Although Politics Against Domination is grounded in political philosophy, it moves quickly to concretely apply theory to reality. Indeed, Shapiro emphasizes that he has little patience for utopian visions that reimagine new social structures without offering practical suggestions for current challenges. He instead champions pragmatic, experimental, and adaptive approaches to combatting domination, and notes that — in a world of constantly changing circumstances — loyalties to specific political arrangements should be conditional upon their abilities to protect against domination.