322: On Dissent by Ronald Collins and David Skover

by Gerard


322.40973: Collins, Ronald K.L. and David M. Skover. On Dissent: Its Meaning in America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 134 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-76719-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 320: Political science
  • 322: Relation of state to organized groups and their members
  • 322.4: Political action groups
  • +0973: United States

Ronald Collins and David Skover want to get to the bottom of this thing we call dissent. Every day, thousands of people across the United States are actively showing their displeasure with some act of local or federal government or with a business they think is running counter to their beliefs. They dissent because they need to. On Dissent is a in-depth look at the fundamental basics of dissent, how it’s effective, and how exactly it fits into the social and legal landscape.

The authors’ investigation into the concept of dissent is interesting in that no one has really looked into it before. We have all seen or heard dissenting opinions. From Supreme Court justices to Martin Luther’s famous 95 theses to small bands of picketers, these people are the embodiment of dissent. For starters, Collins and Skover require that dissent be intentional, critical, and public. Without any one of these facets, it is either innocent, innocuous, or unknown. They explore many nuanced situations where one could convey dissent and how those situations stack up against prevailing opinions and legal definitions. At its core, this book is a look at the political process  and opposition (on many levels) through the eyes of a lawyer. Each facet of dissent is parsed and dissected until a true meaning appears.

The weird thing about this but is that the language is decidedly unfun, but the subject matter is interesting nonetheless. As a reader, I kept waiting for the next layer of dissent to be explored, and the authors did not disappoint. The methodology employed was vigorous and precise. There were no wasted words, no superfluous digressions, no dead-ends. Even the many quotes from outside thinkers sprinkled in the text helped to build a richer understanding of dissent. If you’re at all interested in the political process and the legacy of dissenters, this book may very well be for you. An illuminating read.