From the abstract for The Formation and Transmission of Western Legal Culture: 150 Books that Made the Law in the Age of Printing (Springer, 2016):
This volume surveys 150 law books of fundamental importance in the history of Western legal literature and culture. The entries are organized in three sections: the first dealing with the transitional period of fifteenth-century editions of medieval authorities, the second spanning the early modern period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and the third focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The contributors are scholars from all over the world. Each ‘old book’ is analyzed by a recognized specialist in the specific field of interest. Individual entries give a short biography of the author and discuss the significance of the works in the time and setting of their publication, and in their broader influence on the development of law worldwide. Introductory essays explore the development of Western legal traditions, especially the influence of the English common law, and of Roman and canon law on legal writers, and the borrowings and interaction between them.
The book goes beyond the study of institutions and traditions of individual countries to chart a broader perspective on the transmission of legal concepts across legal, political, and geographical boundaries. Examining the branches of this genealogical tree of books makes clear their pervasive influence on modern legal systems, including attempts at rationalizing custom or creating new hybrid systems by transplanting Western legal concepts into other jurisdictions.
In his latest book, The Trump Administration and International Law (Oxford UP, 2018), Harold Hongju Koh provides an answer to the question that has perplexed international political and legal thinkers since President Donald Trump’s election: will the Trump administration’s policies permanently alter the post-war international order?
From the blurb for Harold Hongju Koh, The Trump Administration and International Law (Oxford UP, 2018):
Will Donald trump international law? Since Trump’s Administration took office, this question has haunted almost every issue area of international law. One of our leading international lawyers-a former Legal Adviser of the US State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, and Yale Law Dean-argues that President Trump has thus far enjoyed less success than many believe, because he does not own the pervasive “transnational legal process” that governs these issue areas. This book shows how those opposing Trump’s policies during his administration’s first two years have successfully triggered that process as part of a collective counter-strategy akin to Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope.” The book surveys immigration and refugee law, human rights, climate change, denuclearization, trade diplomacy, relations with North Korea, Russia and Ukraine, America’s “Forever War” against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the ongoing tragedy in Syria. Koh’s tour d’horizon illustrates the many techniques that players in the transnational legal process have used to blunt Trump’s early initiatives. The high stakes of this struggle, and its broader implications for the future of global governance-now challenged by the rise of populist authoritarians-make this exhausting counter-strategy both worthwhile and necessary.
In Donald Trump: The Making of a World View (I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2017), noted UK-based historians Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman argue it’s a grave error to see Trump’s foreign policy views as impulsive and inconsistent, or believe that they were improvised on the campaign trail and now in office. They also explore how Trump’s foreign policy views aren’t new in American history, but are based on beliefs deeply rooted in U.S. history.
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization
Drawing on extensively documented Trump interviews, tweets, articles, and books from as far back as 1980, the authors reveal that Trump’s world view has been consistent on international trade and America’s alliances, but instead of Europe and Japan being the nations getting the better deal – or a “free ride” in the phrase Trump used in the 1980s – today it’s China. Trump’s resistance to globalization is also extensively cited over the decades.
A Tradition of Blame
Similarly, the authors detail how one aspect of Trump’s foreign policy rhetoric has been a long-standing tradition of American politics – blaming all of America’s current problems on the mistakes or “bad deals” of its leaders. They list extensive examples of how American politicians have leveraged popular support by promoting the simple belief that in a complex world, any problems the U.S. faces are the result of the mistakes of previous leadership.
From the blurb for Laura Little, Guilty Pleasures: Comedy and Law in America (Oxford UP, Dec. 31, 2018):
Few people associate law books with humor. Yet the legal world–in particular the American legal system–is itself frequently funny. Indeed, jokes about the profession are staples of American comedy. And there is actually humor within the world of law too: both lawyers and judges occasionally strive to be funny to deal with the drudgery of their duties. Just as importantly, though, our legal system is a strong regulator of humor. It encourages some types of humor while muzzling or punishing others. In a sense, law and humor engage a two-way feedback loop: humor provides the raw material for legal regulation and legal regulation inspires humor. In Guilty Pleasures, legal scholar Laura Little provides a multi-faceted account of American law and humor, looking at constraints on humor (and humor’s effect on law), humor about law, and humor in law. In addition to interspersing amusing episodes from the legal world throughout the book, the book contains 75 New Yorker cartoons about lawyers and a preface by Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor for the New Yorker.
From the blurb for Amalia D. Kessler, Inventing American Exceptionalism: The Origins of American Adversarial Legal Culture, 1800-1877 (Yale UP, 2017):
When Americans imagine their legal system, it is the adversarial trial—dominated by dueling larger-than-life lawyers undertaking grand public performances—that first comes to mind. But as award-winning author Amalia Kessler reveals in this engrossing history, it was only in the turbulent decades before the Civil War that adversarialism became a defining American practice and ideology, displacing alternative, more judge-driven approaches to procedure. By drawing on a broad range of methods and sources—and by recovering neglected influences (including from Europe)—the author shows how the emergence of the American adversarial legal culture was a product not only of developments internal to law, but also of wider socioeconomic, political, and cultural debates over whether and how to undertake market regulation and pursue racial equality. As a result, adversarialism came to play a key role in defining American legal institutions and practices, as well as national identity.
H/T Legal History Blog post, noting that Kessler’s book was awarded the 2018 John Phillip Reid Prize by the American Society for Legal History.
From the abstract for Pete Souza, Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown, Oct. 16, 2018):
Shade is a portrait in Presidential contrasts, telling the tale of the Obama and Trump administrations through a series of visual juxtapositions. Here, more than one hundred of Souza’s unforgettable images of President Obama deliver new power and meaning when framed by the tweets, news headlines, and quotes that defined the first 500 days of the Trump White House.
What began with Souza’s Instagram posts soon after President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 has become a potent commentary on the state of the Presidency, and our country. Some call this “throwing shade.” Souza calls it telling the truth.
In Shade, Souza’s photographs are more than a rejoinder to the chaos, abuses of power, and destructive policies that now define our nation’s highest office. They are a reminder of a President we could believe in, and a courageous defense of American values.
An excerpt from the blurb for The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age and Terror of Trump (St. Martin’s Press, Dec. 4, 2018):
The Threat recounts in compelling detail the time between Donald Trump’s November 2016 election and McCabe’s firing, set against a page-turning narrative spanning two decades when the FBI’s mission shifted to a new goal: preventing terrorist attacks on Americans. But as McCabe shows, right now the greatest threat to the United States comes from within, as President Trump and his administration ignore the law, attack democratic institutions, degrade human rights, and undermine the U.S. Constitution that protects every citizen.
The Case for Impeaching Trump (Hot Books, Nov. 12, 2018) by Elizabeth Holtzman establishes the requirements for impeachment as set out by the Constitution and proves that President Trump’s actions have already met those requirements. Holtzman makes the definitive, constitutional case that Trump can be impeached―and the process should start now.
From the blurb for David Priess, How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives (PublicAffairs, Nov. 13, 2018):
To limit executive power, the founding fathers created fixed presidential terms of four years, giving voters regular opportunities to remove their leaders. Even so, Americans have often resorted to more dramatic paths to disempower the chief executive. The American presidency has seen it all, from rejecting a sitting president’s renomination bid and undermining their authority in office to the more drastic methods of impeachment, and, most brutal of all, assassination.
How to Get Rid of a President showcases the political dark arts in action: a stew of election dramas, national tragedies, and presidential departures mixed with party intrigue, personal betrayal, and backroom shenanigans. This briskly paced, darkly humorous voyage proves that while the pomp and circumstance of presidential elections might draw more attention, the way that presidents are removed teaches us much more about our political order.
From the blurb for Marco Machado, The Rebirth of the Philosopher King: Trump’s Campaign and the Leadership of the Information Age (2018):
The Information Age prompts the occurrence of binary mindsets. These mindsets simplify life and establish an expectation: people want leaders that are a direct reflection of (extremely hopeful) simplifications. Even though historically the masses have been looking for a savior, with the normalization of binary mindsets online, people manage to express their inner selves and simultaneously expect the emergence of a new sort of leadership. Such leaders, like the Information Age, must have powerful intangible traits. Approaching this recent phenomenon, “The Rebirth of the Philosopher King” takes a fresh look at the power scheme behind the emergence of leaderships in the Information Age.
Democracies have been in disarray. The election of Donald Trump has raised doubts about any romantic portrait of the democratic process. The challenges are many, and much has been said about this topic. Populism, inequality and alienation are some of the words that are often heard (and thrown around) in any analysis of Trump’s campaign. Unlike these common approaches, Marco Machado argues Donald Trump’s campaign relied on an ancient archetype. This archetype often manifests itself as a search after the wise leader, the old master. In the case of Trump, his campaign relied on the archetype of the philosopher king. Immersed in the Information Age, this archetype acquired an unpredictable amount of energy. With an original approach, the rise of Trump is described. In the end, a question comes into being: what sort of leadership do we want to have in the upcoming Information Age?
From the blurb for Pedro Domingos, The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World (Basic Books, 2018):
In the world’s top research labs and universities, the race is on to invent the ultimate learning algorithm: one capable of discovering any knowledge from data, and doing anything we want, before we even ask. In The Master Algorithm, Pedro Domingos lifts the veil to give us a peek inside the learning machines that power Google, Amazon, and your smartphone. He assembles a blueprint for the future universal learner–the Master Algorithm–and discusses what it will mean for business, science, and society. If data-ism is today’s philosophy, this book is its bible.
From the blurb for Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (Simon & Schuster, Nov. 13, 2018) by Seth Abramson:
In Proof of Collusion, Seth Abramson “finally gives us a record of the unthinkable—a president compromising American foreign policy in exchange for financial gain and covert election assistance. The attorney, professor, and former criminal investigator has used his exacting legal mind and forensic acumen to compile, organize, and analyze every piece of the Trump-Russia story. His conclusion is clear: the case for collusion is staring us in the face. Drawing from American and European news outlets, he takes readers through the Trump-Russia scandal chronologically, putting the developments in context and showing how they connect.”
From the blurb for Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Belknap Press, Oct. 2018):
Americans widely believe that the United States Constitution was created when it was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1788. But in a shrewd rereading of the founding era, Jonathan Gienapp upends this long-held assumption, recovering the unknown story of American constitutional creation in the decade after its adoption—a story with explosive implications for current debates over constitutional originalism and interpretation.
When the Constitution first appeared, it was shrouded in uncertainty. Not only was its meaning unclear, but so too was its essential nature. Was the American Constitution a written text, or something else? Was it a legal text? Was it finished or unfinished? What rules would guide its interpretation? Who would adjudicate competing readings? As political leaders put the Constitution to work, none of these questions had answers. Through vigorous debates they confronted the document’s uncertainty, and—over time—how these leaders imagined the Constitution radically changed. They had begun trying to fix, or resolve, an imperfect document, but they ended up fixing, or cementing, a very particular notion of the Constitution as a distinctively textual and historical artifact circumscribed in space and time. This means that some of the Constitution’s most definitive characteristics, ones which are often treated as innate, were only added later and were thus contingent and optional.
From the blurb for Tom Ginsburg & Aziz Z. Huq, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy (UChicago Press, Oct. 19, 2018):
How to Save a Constitutional Democracy mounts an urgent argument that we can no longer afford to be complacent. Drawing on a rich array of other countries’ experiences with democratic backsliding, Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Z. Huq show how constitutional rules can either hinder or hasten the decline of democratic institutions. The checks and balances of the federal government, a robust civil society and media, and individual rights—such as those enshrined in the First Amendment—do not necessarily succeed as bulwarks against democratic decline. Rather, Ginsburg and Huq contend, the sobering reality for the United States is that, to a much greater extent than is commonly realized, the Constitution’s design makes democratic erosion more, not less, likely. Its structural rigidity has had the unforeseen consequence of empowering the Supreme Court to fill in some details—often with doctrines that ultimately facilitate rather than inhibit the infringement of rights. Even the bright spots in the Constitution—the First Amendment, for example—may have perverse consequences in the hands of a deft communicator, who can degrade the public sphere by wielding hateful language that would be banned in many other democracies. But we—and the rest of the world—can do better. The authors conclude by laying out practical steps for how laws and constitutional design can play a more positive role in managing the risk of democratic decline.
From the blurb for Joel Richard Paul, Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times (Riverhead Books, 2018):
This is the astonishing true story of how a rough-cut frontiersman – born in Virginia in 1755 and with little formal education – invented himself as one of the nation’s preeminent lawyers and politicians who then reinvented the Constitution to forge a stronger nation. Without Precedent is the engrossing account of the life and times of this exceptional man, who with cunning, imagination, and grace shaped America’s future as he held together the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the country itself.
H/T to Did Chief Justice Marshall Suborn Perjury in Marbury v Madison? by Anthony Gaughan, The Faculty Lounge, Oct. 24, 2018
Dangerous Leaders: How and Why Lawyers Must Be Taught to Lead (Stanford UP, Aug. 21, 2018) by Anthony C. Thompson “exposes the risks and results of leaving lawyers unprepared to lead. It provides law schools, law students, and the legal profession with the leadership tools and models to build a better foundation of leadership acumen. Anthony C. Thompson draws from his twenty years of experience in global executive education for Fortune 100 companies and his experience as a law professor to chart a path forward for better leadership instruction within the legal academy. Using vivid, real-life case studies, Thompson explores catastrophic political, business, and legal failures that have occurred precisely because of a lapse in leadership from those with legal training. He maintains that these practices are chronic leadership failures that could have been avoided. In examining these patterns of failures, it becomes apparent that legal education has fundamentally misread its task.
“Thompson proposes a fundamental rethinking of legal education, based upon intersectional leadership, to prepare lawyers to assume the types of roles that our increasingly fast-paced world requires. Intersectional leadership challenges lawyer leaders to see the world through a different lens and expects a form of inclusion and respect for other perspectives and experiences that will prove critical to maneuvering in a complex environment. Dangerous Leaders imparts invaluable tools and lessons to best equip current and future generations of legal leaders.”
From the blurb for The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age (Crown, June 19, 2018) by David E. Sanger:
The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, and usable for a variety of malicious purposes—from crippling infrastructure to sowing discord and doubt—cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists. Two presidents—Bush and Obama—drew first blood with Operation Olympic Games, which used malicious code to blow up Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and yet America proved remarkably unprepared when its own weapons were stolen from its arsenal and, during President Trump’s first year, turned back on the US and its allies. The government was often paralyzed, unable to threaten the use of cyberweapons because America was so vulnerable to crippling attacks on its own networks of banks, utilities, and government agencies.
From the blurb for Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them (Random House, Sept. 4, 2018): Fascist politics are running rampant in America today—and spreading around the world. A Yale philosopher identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history.
From the blurb for Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy (Brookings Institution, Sept. 25, 2018) by Marvin Kalb:
In Enemy of the People, Marvin Kalb, an award-winning American journalist with more than six decades of experience both as a journalist and media observer, writes with passion about why we should fear for the future of American democracy because of the unrelenting attacks by the Trump administration on the press.
From the blurb for P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 2, 2018):
P. W. Singer and Emerson Brooking tackle the mind-bending questions that arise when war goes online and the online world goes to war. They explore how ISIS copies the Instagram tactics of Taylor Swift, a former World of Warcraft addict foils war crimes thousands of miles away, internet trolls shape elections, and China uses a smartphone app to police the thoughts of 1.4 billion citizens. What can be kept secret in a world of networks? Does social media expose the truth or bury it? And what role do ordinary people now play in international conflicts?
Delving into the web’s darkest corners, we meet the unexpected warriors of social media, such as the rapper turned jihadist PR czar and the Russian hipsters who wage unceasing infowars against the West. Finally, looking to the crucial years ahead, LikeWar outlines a radical new paradigm for understanding and defending against the unprecedented threats of our networked world.