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Ordered Liberty: Rights, Responsibilities, and Virtues Hardcover – January 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Sew edition (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674059107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674059108
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


In this robust defense of political liberalism, James Fleming and Linda McClain argue that protecting rights and promoting personal responsibility are not in conflict. Both state and civil society should help people learn how to govern themselves, respect each other, and develop their own moral capacities. This is an important book that moves beyond old debates about rights and addresses the problems of pluralism in the twenty-first century. (Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School)

Fleming and McClain defend principles, policies, and institutions designed to form responsible citizens. They affirm that parents, government, and civil society, including religious institutions, share the responsibility for fostering capacities for democratic and personal self-government. Learned, balanced, humane, and clear, this book epitomizes the virtues of that reasonable constitutional liberalism that Americans should count among their proudest achievements. (Stephen Macedo, Princeton University)

Ordered Liberty provides a novel exploration of the relation between First Amendment rights of conscience and the Fourteenth's rights of equality, a valuable discussion of the relative duties, rights and powers of parents and states for the education of children, and rich and original defenses of a woman's right and responsibility to decide on the course of a pregnancy, and a same-sex couple's decision to marry. The authors deepen our understanding of what liberal constitutionalism requires of us as well as the rights it accords us as citizens of law's empire. (Robin L. West, Georgetown University Law Center)

Numerous theorists have claimed that liberal rights come at the expense of individual responsibility and that liberal autonomy fosters indifference to civic virtue. In this important response, James Fleming and Linda McClain argue that contemporary liberalism not only accommodates but also requires both responsibility and virtue. Political liberalism is a form of ordered liberty, not an alternative to it. (William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution)

Engage[s] with important and popular contemporary philosophical and theoretical positions in the liberalism literature on liberalism, from Michael Sandel on one side to Cass Sunstein on another…In bringing together many strands critical in the questioning of liberal orthodoxies, engaging in spirit with a broad range of theorists and philosophers and applying their theory in an illuminating way to current constitutional questions, Fleming and McClain introduce the interested reader to an important conversation and jog us out of old, unthinking habits. (Ekow Yankah Jotwell 2013-10-21)

Critics of liberalism--including communitarians, civic republicans, and progressives--charge that the American constitutional order, and the liberal theories of rights on which it is based, idolize individual rights while marginalizing personal responsibility, civic virtue, and the welfare of the community. In this new work, Professors James Fleming and Linda McClain respond to these critics by developing a liberal account of rights in which responsibility and virtue also play a role. Government may properly encourage citizens to make socially responsible decisions, to participate in democratic self-government, and to live virtuously--but it may not compel citizens to sacrifice the core of their personal autonomy. Fleming and McClain illustrate the interplay of rights, responsibilities, and virtues by exploring such timely issues as same-sex marriage, abortion, education, assisted suicide, religious institutions’ discriminatory practices, and hate speech. They consider, in particular, cases in which the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have determined the extent of government power in these fields, and they discuss how judges committed to ordered liberty might approach the same questions. Ordered Liberty thus offers readers a lively and readable synthesis of political theory, legal philosophy, and constitutional interpretation. (Harvard Law Review 2013-12-01)

About the Author

James E. Fleming is Professor of Law and The Honorable Frank R. Kenison Distinguished Scholar at Boston University School of Law.

Linda C. McClain is Professor of Law and Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar at Boston University School of Law.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Phillip R. Beaver on December 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors would advance John Rawls's liberal political thought, using what they regard as lofty terms, to bemuse innocent readers. But I think they confound themselves.

For example, quoting Page 2, governance they propose "appreciates the value of diversity in our morally pluralistic constitutional democracy." I exclude myself from their "our" because I appreciate a republican form of government--the rule of law--and adamantly oppose "democracy." I oppose "diversity," which contradicts We the People of the United States as defined in the preamble to the US Constitution.

Again on Page 2, they propose "toleration as respect, together with the capacity for responsibility and the substantive moral goods furthered by securing such rights." I adamantly oppose both toleration and respect, especially if directed toward my opinion: I require appreciation, because my opinion is hard earned opinion.

I want to fulfill the preamble to the US Constitution, which I paraphrase as follows: Citizens who want to fulfill seven stated goals govern the United States of America. The preamble defines proponents: We the People of the United States. I consider the seven goals as stated specific to 1788, when the preamble was ratified by the nine required states. The single word adaptations I propose for 2014 are: integrity, justice, civility, defense, diligence, liberty, and continuity. I want to debate these ideas with US citizens, not with the world's diversity for now.

I consider this book helpful in considering the liberal mind, which I oppose to favor We the People of the United States.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By musicmaker on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Linda McClain is a life-long scholar and legal expert in the field of women's issues and family law. Since Linda, at age 12, first drafted a petition in her 7th grade class to get her principal to allow the girls at her school to wear pants to school in the cold Ohio weather, she has always believed in and advocated equal rights for women. Her husband and co-author James Fleming is a noted scholar in the field of constitutional law. The two of them have combined their strengths to collaborate on this timely work that discusses the social issues of abortion, gay marriage, and the delicate balance between individual rights and the government's proper role in encouraging civic virtue and the development of responsible social behavior.
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