Aziz Rana is the author of The Two Faces of American Freedom, now out from Harvard University Press.  He currently teaches law at Cornell Law School.  Before joining the faculty, he completed a Ph.D. in political science at Harvard and a J.D. at Yale Law School, where he was also a post-doctoral fellow.  His writing and research focuses on American constitutional law and political development, with a particular interest in the intersection of citizenship with topics in national security and immigration.

About the book (from the Harvard University Press jacket cover)

The Two Faces of American Freedom boldly reinterprets the American political tradition from the colonial period to modern times, placing issues of race relations, immigration, and presidentialism in the context of shifting notions of empire and citizenship. Today, while the U.S. enjoys tremendous military and economic power, citizens are increasingly insulated from everyday decision-making. This was not always the case. America, Aziz Rana argues, began as a settler society grounded in an ideal of freedom as the exercise of continuous self-rule—one that joined direct political participation with economic independence. However, this vision of freedom was politically bound to the subordination of marginalized groups, especially slaves, Native Americans, and women. These practices of liberty and exclusion were not separate currents, but rather two sides of the same coin.

Still, at crucial moments, social movements sought to imagine freedom without either subordination or empire. By the mid-twentieth century, these efforts failed, resulting in the rise of hierarchical state and corporate institutions. This new framework presented national and economic security as society’s guiding commitments and nurtured a continual extension of America’s global reach. Rana envisions a democratic society that revives settler ideals, but combines them with meaningful inclusion for those currently at the margins of American life.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Liberty and Empire in the American Experience
Chapter 1. Settler Revolt and the Foundations of American Freedom
Chapter 2. Citizens and Subjects in Postcolonial America
Chapter 3. The Populist Challenge and the Unraveling of Settler Society
Chapter 4. Plebiscitary Politics and the New Constitutional Order
Conclusion: Democracy and Inclusion in the Age of American Hegemony


Citations and Advance Comments

A Huffington Post Best Social and Political Awareness Book of 2010

Bruce Ackerman, Yale Law School and author of The Decline and Fall of the American Republic: "This is a genuinely important book, offering a fundamental reinterpretation of American constitutional development."

Jedediah Purdy, Duke Law School: "A strikingly original and powerful account of American political culture."

Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania: "Will put the concept of settler freedom on the map of scholarship on American political thought, political development, and democratic theory."

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Additional Writing 

On the charge of Obama's elitism:

Selected Presentations 

Talk on "The Two Faces of American Freedom" at Labyrinth Books, co-sponsored by Yale Law Library, December 8, 2010

Discussion of immigration history at the National Press Club, with Stephen Yale-Loehr, November 15, 2010

Discussion of the Chinese experience in the U.S. at the Asia Society, with Mae Ngai, October 7, 2010

Contact Info

Cornell Law School
236 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
Phone: (607) 255-5423