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The spirit of presentism haunts constitutional scholarship. The key debate tries to identify those aspects of present-day realities which drive constitutional change – a shift in social mores, the rise of social movements, a change in party balance, or simply the death and replacement of justices.

Chinn moves beyond presentism, without disputing its undoubted importance. For him, the Court’s work also represents an ongoing and self-conscious effort to synthesize past principles into a constitutional order that makes sense to Americans of the present and future.

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