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Institutional Recalibration and Judicial Delimitation

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Throughout American history, a peculiar and recurrent disjunction has often arisen between the substance of transformative reforms and the decidedly less‐radical governing arrangements that arise in the aftermath of reform. To account for this disjunction, this article puts forth a theory of postreform “recalibration.” Political processes of recalibration are the means by which vague, indeterminate principles of reform are given operational meaning and translated into new governing arrangements. This article illuminates recalibration processes by examining two case‐studies: African American rights in the post‐Reconstruction era of the 1870s and 1880s, and labor rights in the post–New Deal era of the late 1930s. Finally, the article also highlights the crucial role of the Supreme Court in recalibration processes and sets forth a theory of judicial behavior as driven by an institutional interest in stability.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Oregon School of Law

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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