Wrestling with Diversity

Wrestling with Diversity

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: October 2003

Author: Sanford Levinson

Contributor: Meira Levinson

American Studies, Law, Religious Studies

“Diversity” has become a mantra within discussions of university admissions policies and many other arenas of American society. In the essays collected here, Sanford Levinson, a leading scholar of constitutional law and American government, wrestles with various notions of diversity. He begins by explaining why he finds the concept to be almost useless as a genuine guide to public policy. Discussing affirmative action in university admissions, including the now famous University of Michigan Law School case, he argues both that there may be good reasons to use preferences—including race and ethnicity—and that these reasons have relatively little to do with any cogently developed theory of diversity. Distinguished by Levinson’s characteristic open-mindedness and willingness to tease out the full implications of various claims, each of these nine essays, written over the past decade, develops a case study focusing on a particular aspect of public life in a richly diverse, and sometimes bitterly divided, society.

Although most discussions of diversity have focused on race and ethnicity, Levinson is particularly interested in religious diversity and its implications. Why, he asks, do arguments for racial and ethnic diversity not also counsel a concern to achieve religious diversity within a student body? He considers the propriety of judges drawing on their religious views in making legal decisions and the kinds of questions Senators should feel free to ask nominees to the federal judiciary who have proclaimed the importance of their religion in structuring their own lives. In exploring the sense in which Sandy Koufax can be said to be a “Jewish baseball player,” he engages in broad reflections on professional identity. He asks whether it is desirable, or even possible, to subordinate merely "personal" aspects of one’s identity—religion, political viewpoints, gender—to the impersonal demands of the professional role. Wrestling with Diversity is a powerful interrogation of the assumptions and contradictions underlying public life in a multicultural world.


“[W]hile this is a scholarly analysis of constitutional issues and their primary test-cases it is also a very well-written book that I found easy to follow…. [I]t was also a genuine page turner; I will be reading further books of his in the future.” — , Sub Ratione Dei Blog

"Eloquent. . . . Levinson contributes greatly to the debate. Highly recommended." — M.W. Bowers , Choice

"Highly engaging, beautifully written, and provocative . . . .This volume contributes importantly to the struggle to understand more fully the many complexities, subtleties, and nuances of the contemporary world that we all inhabit. . . . A model inspication." — Mark Kessler , Law and Politics Book Review

"Thoughtful. . . . 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." — Publishers Weekly

"The essays in this book are thoughtful and engaging and demonstrate both the complexity and importance of the concept of diversity and the challenges and opportunities it presents for those committed to the establishment and preservation of a just and stable multicultural liberal democracy." — Shaun P. Young , Ethics

“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


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sanford Levinson is W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law. He is the author of Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies (also published by Duke University Press) and Constitutional Faith.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Diversity 11

2. Promoting Diversity in Public Schools (Or, To What Extent Does the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment Hinder the Establishment of More Genuinely Multicultural Schools?) 62

3. "Getting Religion": Religion, Diversity, and Community in Public and Private Schools, with Meira Levinson 90

4. Identifying the Jewish Layer: Reflections on the Construction of Professional Identity 124

5. National Loyalty, Communalism, and the Professional Identity of Lawyers 159

6. The Confrontation of Religious Faith and Civil Religion: Catholics Becoming Justices 192

7. Abstinence and Exclusion: What Does Liberalism Demand of the Religiously Oriented (Would-Be) Judge? 233

8. Is Liberal Nationalism an Oxymoron? An Essay for Judith Shklar 256

9. "Culture," "Religion," and the Law, with Rachel Levinson 278

Bibliography 319

Index 331
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3239-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3226-8
Publicity material