The History and Meaning of Originalism as a Movement-Suffocating Worldview

Alec Perkins from Hoboken, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the confirmation hearings for the appointment to the Supreme Court of Ketanji Brown Jackson take place in Washington, and as Republican Senators once again are using the philosophy "originalism" to pass judgment on Jackson's qualifications, we offer here this brilliant talk by our editor-at-large and law professor Peter Gabel as a response to this conservative effort and a map for how we in Tikkun can move forward. In his talk, Peter shows the link between "originalism" as a theory of constitutional interpretation and the effort of the Right over the last forty years to narrow, restrict, and if possible reverse, the gains made by the great social movements of the last hundred years. He also explains both how we should fight in the current political climate for legal victories within our existing constitutional framework, and how we can seed a new vision of a legal system based upon empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding.

Please join us for Peter Gabel's recent talk on "Originalism," a judicial world-view requiring judges to interpret the American Constitution according to the meaning it would have had in the late 18th century. Here, Peter explains this philosophy, puts it in historical context as an attempt to constrain the development of socially progressive influences on American law, and also puts forward an inspiring vision of how we who seek to build a more humane, just, and loving world can overcome the originalists' efforts to contain it.


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