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LAPA Seminar

Lisa L. Miller, LAPA Fellow; Rutgers University

"What's the Matter with 'Our Federalism?': Constitutions, Collective Action, Competition and Quiescence"

November 12, 2012, 4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Lisa L. Miller, 2012-2013 LAPA Fellow and Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, who will present "What's the Matter with 'Our Federalism?': Constitutions, Collective Action, Competition and Quiescence."  Her commentator is Sanford Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair and Professor of Government at the University of Texas, and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Professor Miller writes:  "In this essay, I argue for a more robust understanding of the link between modern constitutionalism and the practice of day-to-day politics, with a particular focus on how effectively constitutions enable mass popular control over political decision-making. I highlight the need to explore how constitutional structures facilitate collective action by mass publics, promote competitive policy debates over public goods, and allow democratic majorities to overcome the legislative quiescence of elite legislative venues. I illustrate the argument by challenging conventional understandings of 'our federalism' and replacing them with the concept of the federalization of law and policy, which refers to the simultaneous but non-coordinated proliferation of issues across the many and varied legislative landscapes of American politics. I argue that this framework far better explains how Americans actually do politics, than do our deep-seeded ideals about American federalism, and it thus illustrates how contemporary federalism, in practice, serves to undermine the fundamental democratic principles that enable mass self-rule."

Lisa L. Miller is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. Her research interests are in law and social policy, constitutionalism, racial inequality and crime and punishment. Her most recent book, The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty and Crime Control (Oxford, 2008), explored the relationship between the peculiar style of American federalism and the substantial inequalities in criminal victimization and punishment across racial groups in the U.S. She has written extensively on the development of crime and justice policy and legal frameworks in the U.S. with her work appearing in Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Perspectives on Politics, Policy Studies Journal, among others. Professor Miller comes to Princeton from a year as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at the University of Oxford where she began a new book project on comparative democratic systems, inequality, crime and punishment. At Princeton, she will continue work on this project entitled "In Defense of Mob Rule? Violence, Inequality and Democracy in Comparative Perspective." Professor Miller received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

Sanford Levinson  is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair and a professor of government at the University of Texas. He has been teaching law and government at UT since 1980, following a teaching position at Princeton University. His specialty is the United States Constitution, about which he has written hundreds of articles and several books. His most recent books are Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It) (2006) which provides a critique of the US national constitution and  Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (2012), which looks at the United States Constitution in the context of American state constitutions, many of which are interestingly different in providing models of governance. He was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.   He is Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School for the Fall 2012 term.

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