Gibbons v. Ogden, Law, and Society in the Early Republic examines a landmark decision in American jurisprudence, the first Supreme Court case to deal with the thorny legal issue of interstate commerce.
Decided in 1824, Gibbons v. Ogden arose out of litigation between owners of rival steamboat lines over passenger and freight routes between the neighboring states of New York and New Jersey. But what began as a local dispute over the right to ferry the paying public from the New Jersey shore to New York City soon found its way into John Marshall’s court and constitutional history. The case is consistently ranked as one of the twenty most significant Supreme Court decisions and is still taught in constitutional law courses, cited in state and federal cases, and quoted in articles on constitutional, business, and technological history.
Gibbons v. Ogden initially attracted enormous public attention because it involved the development of a new and sensational form of technology. To early Americans, steamboats were floating symbols of progress—cheaper and quicker transportation that could bring goods to market and refinement to the backcountry. A product of the rough-and-tumble world of nascent capitalism and legal innovation, the case became a landmark decision that established the supremacy of federal regulation of interstate trade, curtailed states’ rights, and promoted a national market economy. The case has been invoked by prohibitionists, New Dealers, civil rights activists, and social conservatives alike in debates over federal regulation of issues ranging from labor standards to gun control. This lively study fills in the social and political context in which the case was decided—the colorful and fascinating personalities, the entrepreneurial spirit of the early republic, and the technological breakthroughs that brought modernity to the masses.
Philosopher Daniel Milo offers a vigorous critique of the quasi-monopoly that Darwin’s natural selection has on our idea of the natural world. In popular thought, Darwinism has even acquired the trappings of an ethical system, focused on optimization, competition, and innovation. Yet in nature, imperfect creatures often have the evolutionary edge.
Greening Brazil challenges the claim that environmentalism came to Brazil from abroad. Two political scientists, Kathryn Hochstetler and Margaret E. Keck, retell the story of environmentalism in Brazil from the inside out, analyzing the extensive efforts within the country to save its natural environment, and the interplay of those efforts with transnational environmentalism. The authors trace Brazil’s complex environmental politics as they have unfolded over time, from their mid-twentieth-century conservationist beginnings to the contemporary development of a distinctive socio-environmentalism meant to address ecological destruction and social injustice simultaneously. Hochstetler and Keck argue that explanations of Brazilian environmentalism—and environmentalism in the global South generally—must take into account the way that domestic political processes shape environmental reform efforts.
The authors present a multilevel analysis encompassing institutions and individuals within the government—at national, state, and local levels—as well as the activists, interest groups, and nongovernmental organizations that operate outside formal political channels. They emphasize the importance of networks linking committed actors in the government bureaucracy with activists in civil society. Portraying a gradual process marked by periods of rapid advance, Hochstetler and Keck show how political opportunities have arisen from major political transformations such as the transition to democracy and from critical events, including the well-publicized murders of environmental activists in 1988 and 2004. Rather than view foreign governments and organizations as the instigators of environmental policy change in Brazil, the authors point to their importance at key moments as sources of leverage and support.