Wrestling with Diversity

Prof. Sanford Levinson

Published by Duke University Press Books, 2003
ISBN 10: 0822332264 / ISBN 13: 9780822332268
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Synopsis: "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.

Review: "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

"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

"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

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Wrestling with Diversity
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication Date: 2003
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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