THE SUPREME COURT AND THE IDEA OF PROGRESS by Alexander M. Bickel

THE SUPREME COURT AND THE IDEA OF PROGRESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A shortish essay based on the 1969 Oliver Wendell Holmes lectures. Bickel, like most prominent constitutional law professors, displays an uncloistered grasp of practical politics. He applies it overcautiously to Court history, polemically to the recent past. His basic attacks on the Warren Court are familiar and pretty convincing ones. The Court got carried away with policymaking ""statesmanship""; abetted the growth of centralized rule by a public ""superstructure""; sacrificed analytic coherence and principled judgment to what Bickel sees as its egalitarian enthusiasms. These indictments are elaborated with reconstructions of key judgments. Again, Bickel's criticisms of the grounds of the 1954 desegregation decision are familiar. He has less to say about criminal procedures. The Court's major political-free-speech rulings ""stand in contrast to the erratic... subjectivity of [its] obscenity decisions."" The reapportionment issue provokes complaint about the Court's ""majoritarianism."" At the same time, Bickel insists that the judicial supremacy principle requires accommodation and does not warrant promulgating unpopular social policy. More closely reasoned than most recent attacks on liberal pragmatism, the book has topical strength due to its emphasis on the school questions (handled with sociological finesse). Far from the last word, of course, any more than Bickel's Politics and the Warren Court (1965).

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1969
ISBN: 0300022395
Publisher: Harper & Row