“A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Expertise Shape Global Political Economy,” by David Kennedy ’80 (Princeton). Kennedy routinely asks his students a question he poses in his book: Is the world today like it was in 1648, when a long war ended and an era of reinvention began? Or is it more like 1945, when the international order seemed to need reforming? For today’s generation, to remake the world will be just as difficult as it was in 1648, he contends. He points to widespread uncertainty and ambivalence about the world and explores “the role of expertise and professional practice in the routine conflicts through which global political and economic life takes shape.” That analysis includes the role of law in struggle, such as legal expertise in war.
“FDA in the 21st Century: The Challenges of Regulating Drugs and New Technologies,” edited by Holly Fernandez Lynch and I. Glenn Cohen ’03 (Columbia). Stemming from a conference at Harvard Law in 2013, the book features contributors with expertise in law, bioethics, and public health who address how the Food and Drug Administration should best approach drug regulation now and into the future. The essays, edited by the executive director (Lynch) and faculty director (Cohen) of HLS’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, cover major developments that have changed how the FDA regulates; how the agency encourages transparency; First Amendment issues; access to drugs; and evolving issues in drug-safety communication. These issues, the editors write, lie “at the heart of our health and health care.”
“Unstable Constitutionalism: Law and Politics in South Asia,” edited by Mark Tushnet and Madhav Khosla (Cambridge). The volume draws attention to a region that has been underrepresented in studies of comparative constitutional law, according to the editors (Tushnet, an HLS professor who has written widely in that field, and Khosla, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate). The book’s title refers to a phenomenon that links many countries in the region, they say: Participants in national politics are committed to the idea of constitutionalism but may not agree on a stable institutional structure for it that would be appropriate for their respective nations.
“The World According to Star Wars” (Dey Street/Harper Collins) and “Constitutional Personae” (Oxford), by Cass Sunstein ’78. In one of his new books, the author explores a world of heroes and soldiers … the world of the Constitution. In “Constitutional Personae,” he theorizes that judges approach constitutional law through one of four distinct personae. Heroes are “big and bold,” going against existing law with transformative decisions that may conform to their vision of a utopian society. Soldiers follow orders, deferring to the judgment of the political process. Minimalists prefer small, cautious steps, while mutes prefer not to address large constitutional issues. Sunstein prefers what he calls “Burkean minimalism,” favoring small steps but requiring reasons and not merely accepting long-standing practices.
As powerful as the Constitution is, it’s hard to compete with Star Wars. After all, Sunstein writes in another new book, “In all of human history, there’s never been a phenomenon” like it. It’s a force to be reckoned with: The franchise unifies people and connects generations, considers issues of good and evil, heroes and villains, republics, empires, and rebellions. It can even tell us about constitutional law—not in content, but “in terms of how it gets created, and the kinds of freedoms and constraints judges have.” Constitutional law has a lot of dramatic and unexpected moments that build on an existing narrative, he notes, not unlike when Darth Vader says to Luke, “I am your father.”