Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Peter Renstrom
Dr. David Houghton
Dr. Alan Isaak
Dr. Peter Kobrak
The United States Supreme Court occupies an unusual, oftentimes paradoxical position within American democracy. On one hand, it is an institution that seemingly lacks democratic legitimacy, and on the other, it is an institution that dutifully gives meaning to the nation's democratic values. The uniqueness and possibly the grandeur of the American Supreme Court is that it has historically been able to successfully combine these two apparently contradictory aspects in such a manner as to expand upon the nation's traditional sense of individualism--the whole notion of an individual's inalienable right to life, liberty, and property.
Using legal case analysis, the hypothesis of this research endeavor is that the United States Supreme Court has seemingly perpetuated, in some of its more fundamental constitutional decisions, an underlying predisposition toward those normative ideals that pertain primarily to classical democratic liberalism--that is, toward those normative ideals that pertain specifically to the value of individualism. It has done so through careful case selection, which has, in several instances, involved the liberties and protections guaranteed to the individual against the government by the Bill of Rights and by the Fourteenth Amendment.
While countless studies have been conducted on the U.S. Supreme Court, most of them have either sought to determine a proper role for the Court withinAmerican democracy, or have sought to find ways of explaining the Court's power. This research endeavor has been altogether different. Its objective has been to determine how the U.S. Supreme Court has used its unique institutional setting, as the final arbiter of constitutional law, to preserve and perpetuate thefounding principles of classical liberalism (i.e., life, liberty, and property) within American political culture and society. As such, individualism has been its end;the Bill of Rights has been its means.
Roberts, Gary C., "The United States Supreme Court and American Individualism" (2004). Dissertations. 1275.