Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Walker reviews Tsai's "Eloquence and Reason"

H-Law recently circulated a review of Robert Tsai's Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). The reviewer, Anders Walker (St. Louis University School of Law), describes the book as a "nuanced, novel, and compelling" interpretation of First Amendment jurisprudence, and "[p]erhaps the only study of American constitutional law to adopt an explicitly Geertzian approach."

Here's an excerpt of the review:
More than presenting simply a history of litigation strategy or Supreme Court politics, Tsai focuses on language, positing that freedom of speech is “a distinctive way of life” and “a sophisticated system of devotional practices,” not unlike the “webs of signification” that Clifford Geertz associated with culture (pp. 1, 6n13). Animating free speech culture, argues Tsai, are certain inspired rules of rhetoric, or what sixteenth-century political theorist Thomas Wilson called “precepts of eloquence.” Such precepts, continues Tsai, not only “set fire to reason” as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously noted, but also elevate constitutional discourse from mere assertions of brute power to discursive constructs that simultaneously define Americans even as they bind them, ruler and ruled alike (pp. 12-13).
You can read the rest here.

As a side note, how many of you now create websites for your books? In researching this post, I noticed that Tsai chronicles his book's "life" here.