From Publishers Weekly
In contemporary academic and legal discourse, the term "diversity" has become such a floating signifier that the word can be taken to mean virtually anything. Levinson is well aware that the term's soggy genealogy must be complicated if diversity is to become praxis rather than mere theory. His thoughtful treatise concerns itself primarily with the way in which debates about diversity have ignored religious practice in favor of race and ethnicity. An endowed chair of the University of Texas School of Law, Levinson dwells on the contentious legal battles over affirmative action, a topic over which his own school has seen considerable litigation. Levinson offers a principled defense of diversifying universities, basing his arguments on John Stuart Mill's foundational text On Liberty. However, his reliance on such works of classical liberal philosophy may sometimes undermine his otherwise cogent arguments for bringing religion into a heretofore secular discussion. In the book's most compelling chapter, "Identifying the Jewish Lawyer," the author discusses how identity is constructed by both culture and religion, and vice versa. Levinson's quiet insistence on bringing religion into our definition of diversity is a critical gesture that is particularly welcome coming from a legal scholar. For, as the recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action made clear, the definition of such ambiguous terms will ultimately be codified in the courtroom.
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“Issues of identity, diversity, and multiculturalism sit at the center of our public debates, but discussions of these related terms are too often partisan, over-heated, and without nuance. Not so Sanford Levinson's Wrestling with Diversity. At once thoughtful and passionate, it is evenhanded without being in any way equivocal. It provides readers with examples to think on and with analyses that deepen the questions they raise. A wonderful book.”—Stanley Fish, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
“People talk a lot about language being performative: Sanford Levinson's kind of high level analysis and his extraordinary sensitivity to the positions of others make his method the very model of what one would hope for in a ‘multicultural’ society.”—Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University
“Sandy Levinson’s essays are real page-turners. You want to turn the page to find out how he comes out on the incredibly provocative questions he poses. Whether it be ‘Does diversity have any real value?’ or ‘Was Sandy Koufax a “Jewish pitcher”?,’ Levinson’s answers always surprise. He is one of those rare academics who belong to no club and subscribe to no overarching ideology. He actually thinks for himself and always poses questions and suggests answers that make you think. To read these essays is to engage in a dialogue with one of America’s most interesting minds.”—Alan Dershowitz, author of The Case for Israel
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