Reviews

“Throughout this epic reconsideration of the foundational terms of our constitutional politics, Fishkin and Forbath range wide and deep across our legal, economic, and political history . . . . As the bracing narrative of The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution makes clear, the struggle for a just and durable republican political economy has set an abundance of worthy precedents.”

—Chris Lehmann, “The Constitution Was Meant to Guard Against Oligarchy,” The New Republic

“Taken as a whole, Fishkin and Forbath’s work amounts to an epic repudiation and refashioning of the core tenets that have guided liberal judicial politics for a generation. It should act as a sort of manifesto for those in the fight to craft new tenets, to create a more just and equitable society where the people realize the full promise of their Constitution.”

—Benjamin Morse, “How the Left Lost the Constitution,” Jacobin

Despite its scholarly depth, the “Anti-Oligarchy Constitution”is eminently readable, and anybody who cares about the future of American democracy in these perilous times can only hope that it will be widely read and carefully considered.

—James Pope, “How to use the Constitution to rein in American oligarchs and save democracy,” Washington Post

The book’s ambitions are vast; its theoretical sophistication and attention to historical detail never fails to impress; and at 632 pages, its pace never flags. Fishkin and Forbath (“F&F”) seek to reorient the left towards the Constitution by framing the Constitution an instrument of political economy—a means of organizing an economic order through politics. The book is staggeringly successful, and it is engaging and illuminating even when it is not entirely persuasive.

—Evan Burnick, “A Constitution Against Oligarchy?,” The New Rambler

In their brilliant new book, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath challenge the prestige and legitimacy that today’s liberals still largely ascribe to the Court as an institution. . . . . The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution is a sweeping and often gripping history of constitutional and political argument and engagement.

—Caroline Fredrickson, “The Too Supreme Court,” Washington Monthly

The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy thoroughly and brilliantly provides the forgotten history of the positive Constitution that formed the backbone of the post-Civil War Amendments . . . . a magisterial study that is a must read for all students of American constitutional development and contemporary progressives.

—Mark Graber, “The Economic Constitution,” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

“The authors provide a progressive vocabulary for thinking about America’s history and future. But their work is not a polemic. It is a single-volume history of the United States, with a powerful, unfolding set of ideas about how and why Americans got where we are—and how we should move forward and why. The book has a gripping, must-read quality for anyone concerned about America today, resting on this indelible fact: ‘The American Constitution is the constitution of a republic, not an oligarchy.’”

—Lincoln Caplan, “A Democracy of Opportunity,” Harvard Magazine

“The book masterfully shows how generations of progressives made policy arguments, including economic policy arguments, from within the American constitutional tradition . . . . a powerful reconstruction of progressive economic arguments throughout U.S. history.”

—Jonathan Gould, “Puzzles of Progressive Constitutionalism,” Harvard Law Review

“We the People” can only be sovereign so long as economic as well as political power is broadly distributed. An oligarchic system in which economic—and therefore political—power is concentrated at the top is unconstitutional, Fishkin and Forbath contend, and they make their case with a wealth of historical evidence . . . . [For Fishkin and Forbath,] the meaning of the Constitution is too important to be left to the lawyers.

—Jay Swanson, “The Left Needs to Take Back the Constitution,” The Nation

One notable achievement of the book is the way that Fishkin and Forbath, both through artful storytelling and by clarifying the political stakes of seemingly technical, “economic” disputes, make otherwise dry and forgotten constitutional struggles resonate with the spirit of the Constitutional Convention.

—Matthew Dimick, “Capitalism and the Political Economy of the Constitution,” Catalyst

“An important and stirring achievement. In this gold mine of historical discovery and legal insight, Fishkin and Forbath recover and renew the lost Constitution of strong democratic opportunity for all. The authors not only restore a political understanding of economic relationships in American society but return Constitutional values and ideals to their appropriately central place in American politics.”

—U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

“From the earliest years of our nation, Americans have understood that too great a concentration of economic power is fatal to democracy. In this important and timely book, Joseph Fishkin and William Forbath tell the story of the democracy-of-opportunity tradition from the Founding to the present. And they show why its revival is crucial to halt democracy’s decay in our Second Gilded Age. The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution restores political economy to its rightful place in American constitutional theory.”

—Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School

“Fishkin and Forbath have made a fundamental contribution to constitutional understanding. They have put America’s current crisis into historical perspective in a way that brilliantly illuminates our current predicament. They have also provided a framework for reconstructing our constitutional tradition to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Their book deserves serious consideration by thoughtful Americans engaged in the larger effort to reinvigorate the democratic foundations of our Republic.”

—Bruce Ackerman, Yale University

“After decades during which conservatives have dominated deliberation about the Constitution, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution is the book we need. It reminds progressives that constitutional claims were not, in our history, ‘conversation-stoppers,’ but rather the stuff of politics itself. Conservatives talk constantly about what the Constitution requires, and Fishkin and Forbath are right that we need ‘a comparably robust progressive account of what kind of community the Constitution promises to secure for all.’ Their proposal—an emphasis on ‘constitutional restraints against oligarchy,’ a ‘political economy that sustains a robust middle class,’ and ‘a constitutional principle of inclusion’—will move progressives from defense to an unflinching campaign on behalf of a more just and more democratic society. May this exciting book receive the wide attention it deserves and shake up our dangerously ossified constitutional argument.”

—E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Code Redand Our Divided Political Heart

“This book is a monumental accomplishment. Its brilliant retelling of American history traces three strands of thought about ‘constitutional political economy’—anti-oligarchy, the indispensability of a broad and open middle class, and racial inclusion—as they appear, converge, diverge, and sometimes go to war with each other from the Founding forward. Along the way, Fishkin and Forbath illuminate the very different way earlier generations thought about the Constitution—as something like the socioeconomic and institutional foundations of a self-governing republic, and thus as a source of legislative obligations as well as constraints on legislative power. The book is richly instructive for the present moment, and beckons us to live up to the worthiest aspirations of multiple generations of ‘founders’ by weaving together the three strands of the anti-oligarchy tradition.”

—Cynthia Estlund, New York University School of Law

“Want to fight oligarchy in America? In this fascinating and brilliant reconstruction of American constitutional thought, Fishkin and Forbath show how economic freedom and constitutional freedom used to be intertwined in public thought, and how they got separated—with devastating results. Part mystery story (how did we get here?), and part call to arms, their book is a must-read for all people ready for a new democracy of meaningful opportunity.”

—Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law School