Engines of Liberty

The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law

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Regular Price $16.99 CAD

Regular Price $12.99

Regular Price $16.99 CAD

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On Sale

Mar 29, 2016

Page Count

320 Pages




From the national legal director of the ACLU, an essential guidebook for anyone seeking to stand up for fundamental civil liberties and rights

One of Washington Post‘s Notable Nonfiction Books of 2016

In an age of executive overreach, what role do American citizens have in safeguarding our Constitution and defending liberty? Must we rely on the federal courts, and the Supreme Court above all, to protect our rights? In Engines of Liberty, the esteemed legal scholar David Cole argues that we all have a part to play in the grand civic dramas of our era — and in a revised introduction and conclusion, he proposes specific tactics for fighting Donald Trump’s policies.

Examining the most successful rights movements of the last thirty years, Cole reveals how groups of ordinary Americans confronting long odds have managed, time and time again, to convince the courts to grant new rights and protect existing ones. Engines of Liberty is a fundamentally new explanation of how our Constitution works and the part citizens play in it.

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One of Washington Post's Notable Nonfiction Books of 2016
"[Cole's] narratives weave a compelling portrait of advocacy-driven constitutional change... the collection certainly stands apart from dense and dry legal texts in being readable, accessible and at times even gripping... a deeply hopeful book about an institution in which our hope may be dwindling."—Washington Post
"Transforms one's understanding of the contributions of other forums-state legislatures, for example, and public opinion (at home and abroad) -- in campaigns that eventually culminate in Supreme Court decisions."—New York Review of Books
"A fresh and revelatory account of constitutional reform from the bottom up. The book carries a hopeful message: Despite the undue influence wielded by elite institutions, ordinary citizens can and do drive constitutional change...Cole's examples of constitutional reform, on both the left and the right, bear out his claims."—Nation
"A convincingly argued book."—Dorf on Law
"Cole's book is compelling, especially in today's climate of gridlock following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia."—Kirkus
"In Engines of Liberty, David Cole turns constitutional law on its head. With his characteristic intelligence and clarity, Cole demonstrates that the law changes from the bottom up, not the top down, and that it is citizens, not judges, who are the ultimate custodians of our nation's laws."
Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and TheNine
"Engines of Liberty is a masterful account of how civil society organizations work, and a passionate argument for why they are so important to our democracy. David Cole offers invaluable knowledge and insight about the potential each of us has to shape our nation's laws and public life. My hope is that Engines of Liberty inspires a new generation of activists to rise up and launch their own campaigns for civil liberties."—Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, AmericanCivil Liberties Union
"In expertly demonstrating how ordinary people can make a huge difference on defining issues in our nation, David Cole has written an important, inspiring, and essential book!"—Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay& Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
"A skilled human rights practitioner unveils a characteristically thoughtful, balanced anatomy of successful constitutional advocacy, which focuses less on winning court battles than on shaping the popular sentiments that critically drive or obstruct political change."—Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale LawSchool
"No one is better than David Cole at explaining how Americans can fight for civil liberties and civil rights. He is passionate yet careful, accessible yet nuanced, Engines of Liberty wonderfully highlights his intellectual virtues."—Randall Kennedy, Michael R.Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of For Discrimination
"Anyone who doubts the ability of Americans to change both policy and law should read David Cole's book. His analysis of how we go about protecting the rights of gun owners is the most accurate I have ever read. This is a must read."
David Keene, formerpresident of the NRA
"David Cole is one of our most astute and perceptive constitutional commentators. His work is indispensable."
Robert Post, Dean, Yale Law School
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