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« Empowered Participation, by Archon Fung | Main | Sick: The Untold Story, by Jonathan Cohn »


Before the Next Attack, by Bruce Ackerman

By an everyday book reader
April 1, 2007

Terrorist attacks regularly trigger the enactment of repressive laws, setting in motion a vicious cycle that threatens to devastate civil liberties over the twenty-first century. In this clear-sighted book, Bruce Ackerman peers into the future and presents an intuitive, practical alternative.

This book proposes an "emergency constitution" that enables government to take extraordinary actions to prevent a second strike in the short run while prohibiting permanent measures that destroy our freedom over the longer run.

Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism
by Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of TerrorismBook Picture

Softcover: 240 pages
ISBN: 9780300122664, 0300122667
Yale University Press
March 2007

Ackerman's "emergency constitution" exposes the dangers lurking behind the popular notion that we are fighting a "war" on terror. He criticizes court opinions that have adopted the war framework, showing how they uncritically accept extreme presidential claims to sweeping powers. Instead of expanding the authority of the commander in chief, the courts should encourage new forms of checks and balances that allow for decisive, but carefully controlled, presidential action during emergencies.

In making his case, Ackerman explores emergency provisions in constitutions of nations ranging from France to South Africa, retaining aspects that work and adapting others. He shows that no country today is well equipped to both fend off terrorists and preserve fundamental liberties, drawing particular attention to recent British reactions to terrorist attacks.

Written for thoughtful citizens throughout the world, this book is democracy's constitutional reply to political excess in the sinister era of terrorism.

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University, and the author or coauthor of more than fifteen books on political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy, including Social Justice in the Liberal State, The Stakeholder Society, and Deliberation Day, all published by Yale University Press.

Chapters in this book include:

  1. The Emergency Constitution
  2. Diagnosis
  3. This Is Not a War
  4. This Is Not a Crime
  5. This Is an Emergency
  6. Prescription
  7. The Political Constitution
  8. The Role of Judges
  9. American Exceptionalism
  10. If Washington Blows Up?
  11. The Morning After


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