David J. Bodenhamer Our Rights

ISBN 13: 9780195313406

Our Rights

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9780195313406: Our Rights
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Designed for high school students and motivated lay readers, this book is an introduction to the rights held by American citizens under the U.S. Constitution as explored through a series of historical case studies. Each chapter uses dramatic narrative to illustrate a right in action. Most examples use U.S. Supreme Court cases to focus on a time when the right in question received its modern interpretation. Each chapter discusses how the right applies today and how courts and other interpreters seek to balance this right with important societal concerns, such as the need for order and public safety.

Beginning with a 20-page chapter on how we arrived at our modern concept of rights, the major interpretive thread is the continual struggle to define limits on the power of the state. Introducing several key themes: our understanding of rights have emerged from history (experience); our definition and interpretation of rights are always evolving; concepts of rights are always under contention; and various actors-legislatures, executives, and courts-compete to be the final interpreter of our rights. American constitutional rights generally fall into one of three groups-rights of democracy, that is, rights required for American democracy to work effectively; rights of the accused, or due process rights that assure a fair trial for individuals accused of crimes; and other rights of persons, including the right to privacy. A fourth category of rights are not constitutional per se, but often we conceive of them as such even though often they are statutory rights, such as the right to education.

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About the Author:


David J. Bodenhamer, Director, The Polis Center, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, United States

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David J. Bodenhamer
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