Edward S. Corwin Award ($500).
Award Committee: Peter Fish, Duke University, chair; Murray Dry, Middlebury College, and Lettie McSpadden, Northern Illinois University.
Recipient: Kenneth I. Kersch, Lehigh University
Dissertation: "Frames of Progress:
The Political Imagination of Rights and Liberties in the United States Supreme Court"
Dissertation Chair: Theodore Lowi, Cornell University
Citation: From among more than a dozen dissertations submitted to it, the Committee selected as the best dissertation in the field of public law that authored by Dr. Kenneth Ira Kersch entitled: "Frames of Progress: The Political Imagination of Rights and Liberties in the United States Supreme Court". Written in the tradition of Edward S. Corwin, Kersch's monumental work challenges the conventional narrative of American constitutional development. That narrative hews to the Whig view of a Manichaen contest between the apocalyptic forces of constitutional darkness and the visionary forces of constitutional light. Out of this clash emerges triumphant constitutional progress wherein the disharmonious is harmonized and the incommensurable is reconciled. Kersch advances and alternative and provocative thesis --that the narrative of constitutional development has not been one marked by linearity, harmony and continuity, but rather by non-linearity and discontinuities. The latter forms an agonistic narrative. Only b y so viewing the saga of constitutional development in distinct historical epochs can political choicemaking between and among fundamental and desirable creedal values be revealed. Free of retrospective wisdom and unexamined teleology, his constitutional narrative incisively unveils the tragic choices at the core of American political life.
Kersch builds his learned study on epochal constitutional frames fixed by elite constitutional progressives and conditioned by their changing reformist imperatives. He then assesses the associated tenets of constitutional progressivism as they relate the three social spaces: streets(crime and race); schools(education, family, religion and race); workplace(vocations, enterprise, labor and race). His intensive examination of constitutional choices based on a vast and diverse array of sources that include the works of judges, journalists, fiction writers, philosophers, social scientists and legal academics offer new insights into political dynamics and constitutional decision-making. Kersch's cross-sectional analysis enables him to present a coherent and creative narrative of American constitutional development with a tragic heart.
Weaving law, politics, history and political thought into a constitutional mosaic, he artfully ferrets out the hidden costs that are masked by the linear narrative of policy choices made by elite decision-makers. Kersch finds that their choices among fundamental values produce unintended consequences that devalue traditional rights and liberties and necessitate a re-imagining of those rights and liberties.
The Committee regards this dissertation as one which makes an important and an original contribution to the study of American constitutionalism. Its refreshing and creative approach to a core aspect of American public law reflects the author's immense store of knowledge, an impressive research capacity, an exceedingly fluent writing style and an ability to bring these attributes to bear on the conventional narrative and to transcend it. Kersch's agonistic narrative of the sweep of American constitutional development from the late nineteenth century to the present moment is, the Committee believes, an enduring work of constitutional law and theory.
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|Publication:||PS: Political Science & Politics|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2000|
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