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The Hollow Hope

Can Courts Bring About Social Change? Second Edition

Second Edition

In follow-up studies, dozens of reviews, and even a book of essays evaluating his conclusions, Gerald Rosenberg’s critics—not to mention his supporters—have spent nearly two decades debating the arguments he first put forward in The Hollow Hope. With this substantially expanded second edition of his landmark work, Rosenberg himself steps back into the fray, responding to criticism and adding chapters on the same-sex marriage battle that ask anew whether courts can spur political and social reform.
            Finding that the answer is still a resounding no, Rosenberg reaffirms his powerful contention that it’s nearly impossible to generate significant reforms through litigation. The reason? American courts are ineffective and relatively weak—far from the uniquely powerful sources for change they’re often portrayed as. Rosenberg supports this claim by documenting the direct and secondary effects of key court decisions—particularly Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. He reveals, for example, that Congress, the White House, and a determined civil rights movement did far more than Brown to advance desegregation, while pro-choice activists invested too much in Roe at the expense of political mobilization. Further illuminating these cases, as well as the ongoing fight for same-sex marriage rights, Rosenberg also marshals impressive evidence to overturn the common assumption that even unsuccessful litigation can advance a cause by raising its profile.
            Directly addressing its critics in a new conclusion, The Hollow Hope, Second Edition promises to reignite for a new generation the national debate it sparked seventeen years ago.

See Rosenberg’s response to his critics.

534 pages | 8 line drawings, 35 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

American Politics and Political Economy Series

Law and Legal Studies: The Constitution and the Courts

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Judicial Politics


On the first edition
"A carefully and thoroughly executed study. . . . The Hollow Hope is absolutely ’must’ reading."

Lee Epstein | Law and Politics Book Review

“Rosenberg argues with considerable subtlety and power and no little persuasiveness that the promise of Supreme Court action has been chimerical. In his view, Justices are, at best, the Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns of the larger American social drama, and the lawyers pleading their cases have mostly been wasting their thespian talents.”

David L. Kirp | Nation

On First Edition:
"The real strength of The Hollow Hope . . . is its resuscitation of American Politics—the old-fashioned representative kind—as a valid instrument of social change. Indeed, the flip side of Mr. Rosenberg’s argument that courts don’t do all that much is the refreshing view that politics in the best sense of the word—as deliberation and choice over economic and social changes, as well as over moral issues—is still the core of what makes America the great nation it is. . . . A book worth reading."

Gary L. McDowell | Washington Times

"The second edition . . . is to be commended for what it is and what it does well. This book will remain a valuable resource for those studying roles that courts have played and may contuinue to play at the intersections of law and politics. The new chapters are informative and thouhgt provoking."

Wayne D. Moore | Law and Politics Book Review

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures        
Preface to the Second Edition    
Preface to the First Edition

1. The Dynamic and the Constrained Court
Part 1  ·  Civil Rights
2. Bound for Glory? Brown and the Civil Rights Revolution
3. Constraints, Conditions, and the Courts
4. Planting the Seeds of Progress?
5. The Current of History
Part 2  ·  Abortion and Women’s Rights
6. Transforming Women’s Lives? The Courts and Abortion
7. Liberating Women? The Courts and Women’s Rights
8. The Court as Catalyst?
9. The Tide of History
Part 3  ·  The Environment, Reapportionment, and Criminal Law
10. Cleaning House? The Courts, the Environment, and Reapportionment
11. Judicial Revolution? Litigation to Reform the Criminal Law
Part 4  ·  Same-Sex Marriage
12. You’ve Got That Loving Feeling? The Litigation Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage
13. Confusing Rights with Reality: Litigation for Same-Sex Marriage and the Counter-Mobilization of Law
14. Conclusion: The Fly-Paper Court

1. Black Children in Elementary and Secondary School with Whites: 1954–72
2. Blacks at Predominantly White Public Colleges and Universities
3. Black Voter Registration in the Southern States: Pre- and Post-Voting Rights Act
4. Laws and Actions Designed to Preserve Segregation
5. Method for Obtaining Information for Table 4.1 and Figure 4.1
6. Illegal Abortions
7. Method for Obtaining Information for Tables 8.1A, 8.1B, 8.2A, and 8.2B, and for Figures 8.1 and 8.2
8. Coding Rules and Methods for Obtaining Information for Tables 13.3, 13.4, 13.5, 13.6, and 13.7
Case References

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