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Constitutional Sentiments

Constitutional Sentiments by András Sajó

This engaging and thoughtful book seeks to “consider the role of emotions in constitutional law, accepting that one cannot understand human behavior and law as a purely rational venture (p. 4).” The author, András Sajó, a practicing judge (European Court of Human Rights) and academic (Central European University), offers a compelling legal and theoretical alternative to the positioning of reason and emotion as the extremes of jurisprudential thinking, while also explicating the pivotal function emotion assumes in constitutional design and law. The book consists of seven chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the author’s argument on the behalf of a social constructivist concept of emotion, as well as the disadvantages of neglecting emotion more generally. The second chapter outlines the importance of“enhanced emotions” as defined by the French Declaration of Rights. The third and fourth chapters detail the role that emotions of fear (Constitutional Convention) and empathy (Abolitionist Movement) have assumed in modern politics. The fifth and sixth chapters articulate how emotion is pivotal to defenses of freedom of speech and assembly. The final, and arguably the most compelling chapter, argues for the importance of shame as a corrective emotion for past injustices, and the “recognition of responsibility” (p. 299).

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