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Polyphonic Federalism

Toward the Protection of Fundamental Rights

The relationship between the states and the national government is among the most contested issues in the United States. And questions about where power should reside, how decisions should be made, and how responsibility should be allocated have been central to the American experiment in federalism. In Polyphonic Federalism, Robert A. Schapiro defends the advantages of multiple perspectives in government, arguing that the resulting “polyphony” creates a system that is more efficient, democratic, and protective of liberties.

This groundbreaking volume contends that contemporary views of federalism are plagued by outmoded dualist notions that seek to separate state and federal authority. Instead, Schapiro proposes a polyphonic model that emphasizes the valuable interaction of state and federal law, one that more accurately describes the intersecting realities of local and national power. Through an analysis of several legal and policy debates, Polyphonic Federalism demonstrates how a multifaceted government can best realize the potential of federalism to protect fundamental rights.

256 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Law and Legal Studies: The Constitution and the Courts


Polyphonic Federalism is a very interesting and important book, proposing a provocative new conception of federalism in the United States. It will make a very important contribution to the current discussion of the functioning of, and the purposes behind, our system of constitutional federalism.”

Robert Williams, Distinguished Professor, Rutgers School of Law

"A brilliant book that offers a sophisticated new theory of federalism. Professor Schapiro’s approach—polyphonic federalism—defends having a multitude of actors working to enhance freedom and provide effective governance. Supreme Court justices, federal judges, legislators, and academics all should pay careful attention to this path breaking work."

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law

“Schapiro is joining a group of scholars exploring dimensions of federalism that have not been sufficiently in focus.  His contribution enables us to see facets of doctrine and practices that remind us that our system is better described as ‘federalisms’—pluralized to capture the differing relationships among states and the federal government and across the states themselves.”

Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Paradox: The Revival of Federalism in a Nationalizing Society
Chapter 2: Federalism Old and New
Chapter 3: The Return of Dualism
Chapter 4: Federalism as Polyphony
Chapter 5: The Benefits of Intersystemic Adjudication
Chapter 6: State Courts as Enforcers of Federal Law
Chapter 7: Customary International Law in State and Federal Courts


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