Raised Right
Fatherhood in Modern American Conservatism
Jeffrey R. Dudas



Raised Right

William F. Buckley Jr.’s task in 1970 was no less daunting than it is now. The “patron saint”1 of modern American conservatism, Buckley had taken it on himself to expose “the flesh and blood of conservatism in America.” On one hand, the felt need for an exploration of “the conservative position: its attitudes, its tones” was testament to the improbable success of American conservatism over the previous fifteen years—a success that was rooted in his 1955 founding of the definitive conservative periodical, the National Review.2 Defying the predictions of mainstream, Cold War–era commentators who insisted that a liberal “consensus” had overtaken American life, Buckley and his colleagues had stood “athwart history, yelling Stop.”3 Indeed, by 1970, those consensus voices, so ubiquitous in the 1950s, had disappeared, lost in the domestic and international turmoil of the 1960s. Far from marginal, the American conservative movement in 1970 was soon to reach full flight. A taking of stock was thus in order.

But, on the other hand, Buckley knew that articulating a satisfying definition of American conservatism was perhaps a fool’s errand. After all, conservatism was, like all other viable social movements, made up of a dizzying array of constituents and approaches to governance—most of them in tension, and sometimes in outright rivalry, with one another. Buckley’s intent when founding the National Review was to make American conservatism intellectually rigorous and respectable; he meant to provide American conservatism with a distinctly modern identity. But given the fractious nature of its members, this was no small feat. How, exactly, to distill a common essence from the motivating impulses of large corporate interests, small-government libertarians, social and racial traditionalists, and, eventually, evangelical Christians? What did these populations have in common? What made them all identifiably “conservative”?

The answers to these questions, Buckley knew, were critical. Without a common set of commitments around which to gather—without something, or someone, to believe in—the burgeoning American conservative movement was in constant danger of implosion. And so, Buckley, wary but undaunted, set about to define “what conservatism is.”4

Buckley’s definition of American conservatism proceeded according to “processes of exclusion.” And because he knew “who is a conservative less surely than I know who is [not],”5 Buckley was confident in his exclusions: Ayn Rand and the followers of her atheistic dogma of “objectivism”; Robert Welch and the conspiracy-mad denizens of his John Birch Society; the anarchist, state-hating followers of economist Murray Rothbard; and, most painful, former National Review authors such as Max Eastman and Garry Wills, who had both criticized Buckley’s characteristic sanctification of American conservatism with Christian principle.6 These exclusions allowed Buckley to sketch “the confines of contemporary conservatism” so that after twenty-three pages of text, he was able to deliver on his goal of defining American conservatism. Modern conservatives, he declared, shared a “spirit of defiance” that issued “from distinctively American patterns of thought, from the essence of the American spirit.” American conservatives, Buckley opined, “dragg[ed] their feet, resist[ed], kick[ed], complain[ed], hugg[ed] on to our ancient moorings.”7

Those “ancient moorings,” it turned out, were built with specifically paternal anchors. Indeed, the “American spirit” transmitted the “faith of our fathers” to the present day, bringing their paternal disapproval, in particular, to two of the twentieth century’s most troubling trends: its “beatification” and concomitant “integration” of the state “as a member of the American household” and its reigning intellectual cynicism, which gave rise to the “trauma of self-doubt.” Modern American conservatism accordingly channeled the “certitudes” of the American fathers; it “intellectualized” paternal desire in order to resist “the twentieth century’s” attempts to rearrange the “American household.” Linking conservative purpose to the spectral dictates of “the founders of the American republic,” Buckley rejoiced:

In the past fifteen years in America a literature has emerged which taken together challenges root and branch the presumptions of the twentieth century. The intuitive wisdom of the founders of the American republic . . . is being rediscovered. . . . The meaning of the spirit of the West is being exhumed; impulses that never ceased to beat in the American heart are being revitalized.8

But what was this “intuitive wisdom of the founders of the American republic”? What were the “certitudes” and “rediscovered . . . impulses” that fired the “faith of our fathers” and coursed through the defiant “American spirit”? Buckley identified them in 1955 as the “fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to the neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.”9 They were, in short, the individual rights that are sacralized in our founding documents—the rights according to which American government was founded and legitimized. Cocksure, nontraumatic belief in the dictates of both paternal influence and individual rights: this, according to its undisputed intellectual founder, was the distinctive, unifying creed of modern American conservatism.

But this is curious. Paternal influence, with its spectral transmission of the timeless certitudes of the fathers, stands for external domination; the self-governance championed by Enlightenment notions of individual rights stands instead for autonomous self-creation. The one gestures toward control, the other toward freedom.

What are we to make of a political movement that celebrates both submission to paternal will and defiance to ascendant social, cultural, and political orders? A movement that not only champions such a paradoxical creed but, according to its “patron saint,” requires its presence as the catalytic force that harmonizes its fractious member populations? More: What does it mean for those public figures whom the movement champions as its heroes, who both contain within themselves and publicly articulate such warring impulses? Indeed, what does it mean that modern American conservatism is founded on, and regenerates itself, paradoxically, through a paternal demand for rights?

Raised Right approaches these questions through an interrogation of the shared meanings that inform American life. In so doing, it eschews study of the formal, institutional dynamics—the elections, interbranch relations, and legislative and judicial debates about the proper scope of governmental authority—that are the typical subjects of scholarship on American law and politics. Instead, it offers a specifically cultural analysis of modern American conservatism, arguing that the otherwise uncomplimentary actors who make up the movement mutually celebrate a series of iconic public figures (including especially the trinity of William F. Buckley Jr., former president Ronald Reagan, and current US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas). What makes these figures iconic is that they each employ(ed) a common familial and legal discourse—one that identified, as did Buckley Jr., the timeless certitudes of paternal authority and individual rights as the warp and weft of modern American conservatism’s intellectual weave.

Indeed, these iconic conservatives celebrated citizens who were reared in conventional domestic and family circumstances. As we will see, Buckley Jr., Reagan, and now Thomas were especially fond of households in which fathers exercised unstinting authority and mothers were supportive and nurturing but never overbearing, or smothering of, their (especially) male children. From such families emerged the vaunted citizens of republican nations—the citizens who were disciplined and responsible enough to be trusted with the rights that confirmed them as autonomous, self-governing subjects. The seedbeds of self-governance, such patriarchal family units were said to prepare the way for the mature, rights-bearing subjects who were needed for modern democratic practice.

The effects of this paternal rights discourse, I will argue, radiate in multiple and paradoxical directions. The discourse, on one hand, is the common denominator of modern American conservatism; as such, it both defines the conservative movement’s goals and has a salutary effect on the movement itself, working to smooth the jagged edges of conservatism’s discontinuous elements. But as will become increasingly clear as this book’s chapters unfold, the hortatory and catalytic impulses of modern American conservatism’s central creed exert a heavy toll: on the intellectual coherence of the conservative movement, its iconic figures (whose own personal histories call into question the supposed virtues of stern paternal authority), and, especially, American conservatism’s stated goal of creating autonomous, rights-bearing citizens. The process according to which modern American conservatism at once defines and rejuvenates itself—its cultural, discursive regeneration through rights—thus carries within it the seeds of the movement’s instability—an instability whose marks escape the confines of American conservatism and surface in contemporary American politics writ large.

Scholarly and Methodological Principles

Although its approach is, as I have suggested, unconventional to most political analysis, Raised Right relies on two premises about rights discourse that are well established by scholars who work in the area of law, society, and politics. The first of these premises is that the discourse of the self-governing, rights-bearing citizen—exactly that lexicon that in part animates American conservatism—is a distinctive, and perhaps the defining, American political discourse.10 Yet in spite of that discourse’s claims to universality—all Americans, it holds in principle, are properly vested with and can employ rights—commentators of all partisan positions have conventionally placed conditions on the attainment and exercise of rights. The most prominent restriction has been that only those persons who exercise self-discipline, and the autonomy that it is said to enable, are fit for rights.11 Raised Right builds on this well-established scholarly premise. Indeed, it finds that the conventional American preconditions for rights, self-discipline and autonomy, are themselves frequently held to be attainable only when particular kinds of domestic and familial circumstances—strong paternal and weak, or missing, maternal authority—are present.

Thus, written into the facially egalitarian discourse of individual rights is a qualifying, exclusionary logic that conditions rights on particular familial and gendered dynamics. And as we will see, these exclusionary dynamics frequently align with racial and class-based inequities such that those persons disqualified from rights are marked not only by supposed family dysfunction but also by racial and class difference. Gendered, bleached, and classed, the “normal” rights-bearing American citizen has conventionally been emblematic of white male privilege.

The second scholarly premise on which this book rests, however, maintains that although the accreted weight of historical and cultural practice emphasizes the limits of American rights discourse, that discourse is not simply disabling. Instead, its cultural legibility has consistently made it a powerful vocabulary for all Americans, including those historically denied the benefits of American democracy. Indeed, one of the outstanding characteristics of the previous sixty years of American history is the expansion of rights discourse, and the valued identities that it transmits, to include many nonwhite male Americans who had previously been marked as lacking the self-discipline and autonomy required for proper rights practice.12

But isn’t this odd? How is it that our rights discourse can transmit, without undermining its own legitimacy, such a deeply ambivalent, even puzzling message? How can our dialect of rights point to both universal entitlement and the boundaries of personal and social (especially family) circumstance? The paradox that animates our rights discourse—it at once legitimates individual autonomy and heteronomous limit, individual liberation and social constraint—is derived, it turns out, from the character of modern law and politics itself.

According to Peter Fitzpatrick, the assemblage of legal and political practices that we call “modernity” is united by a rejection of the superstitions of the premoderns (of myth) and a celebration of its own supposed universality (of antimyth). This modern pretension toward transcendence and rationality is itself the artifact of an underlying horror of, and paradoxical attraction to, all manner of difference and particularity—to “myth.” Refracted through the still-prevalent tropes of personhood that inform Anglo American colonial and imperial imaginations, modernity represses the racial and sexual desires of socially dominant, “civilized” populations, which it then demonizes and projects onto the “savage” bodies, minds, families, and cultures of colonial and imperial subjects. Thus is modernity’s repulsion of myth and insistence on its own rational, transcendent character—its denial of the exotic and erotic desires that constitute it—both its distinctive mark and the key to understanding how modern “law transcends society yet is of society.”13 This “myth of transcendence” is, in Ewick and Silbey’s more recent formulation, at the center of how most Americans, for example, believe without contradiction in the apparently irreconcilable “before the law” and “with the law” forms of legal consciousness.14

So, too, it seems, is there something of this forbidden desire for difference in what Scheingold called the American “myth of rights.” Scheingold’s innovation, the one that propelled multiple generations of scholars, was to see how modern law’s distinctive pathologies could be mobilized as political resources by “empire’s children”15—by those on whom the Anglo American imagination projected its own desires and fears: by women, racial and sexual minorities, and other disdained peoples of all sorts. Evoking the entrenched, constitutive desire for transcendence, these marked others leveraged their subjugated statuses as resources for political insurgency that, at least occasionally, successfully gained for them some of the long-denied benefits of democratic citizenship. The “politics of rights”—the mobilization of a culturally salient, if deeply ambivalent discursive convention—is thus a hallmark of both modern law and the modern configuration of politics itself. Paradoxical though it is, a politics of rights simply makes sense to most Americans most of the time.16

These insights provide the historical and conceptual backdrop for my interrogation of modern American conservatism. Indeed, the instability of rights discourse—the simultaneous signification and troubling of undemocratic privilege that is derived from modern law and politics itself—lends to conservative politics, ironically, its vitality. Articulation and defense of the “normal,” paternally disciplined, rights-bearing citizen thus works as the conservative movement’s catalytic and harmonizing force; it is the cultural source of the movement’s seemingly limitless capacity to regenerate itself as a relatively cohesive, unified movement in spite of ongoing internal tensions.

Given these core scholarly premises and commitments, I engage in a particular form of investigation and employ a particular set of methods in order to conduct that investigation. The source material, or “data,” on which this book relies is contained primarily in chapters 3 to 5, which explore the trio of public figures whom movement conservatives consider to be their most important representatives: William F. Buckley Jr. (in Chapter 3), Ronald Reagan (in Chapter 4), and Clarence Thomas (in Chapter 5). Each of these chapters interprets the distinctive, paternal rights discourse with which these figures articulated their visions of the American nation, the sorts of family structures necessary for the production of virtuous citizens, and the acts of governance that would best reflect the nation’s core commitment to autonomous self-governance. In short, each of these chapters interrogates the presence, and the effects, of the paternal rights talk that distinguishes, rejuvenates, and troubles modern American conservatism.

As such, I rely on methods of inquiry that are drawn from interpretive approaches to the social sciences and the humanities. My interpretive account fixates, in particular, on the effects of language—effects that register in the domains of both the conceptual and the epistemological. Indeed, interpretive scholars are concerned with how a culture’s common vernaculars at once reflect and constitute the widely shared meanings with which people make sense of themselves, others, and the possibilities of action that do and do not exist at any particular time. It is through the habitual speaking and hearing of such commonly held discursive conventions that we become meaningful; they lead us to know who we are (and are not), what we desire (and what we fear), and which practices are best suited (or not) for realizing our goals.17

Language is thus not simply descriptive verbiage; we do not carry around in our heads with us fully formed, intuitive senses of our identities and our interests that are waiting to be born in a swaddle of intentionally chosen words. Instead, the commonly shared languages that we speak operate on us recursively; the words that we use are at once reflective and generative of our understandings: of who we are (and are not), of what we desire (and fear), and of how best (or worst) to pursue our goals. To the extent that our beliefs, fears, desires, and ambitions have meaning—to the extent that we can make ourselves intelligible to both ourselves and others—we have our commonly shared languages, our discursive conventions, to thank for it.18

Interpretive analyses pinpoint the meaning-making activities of human beings, and especially our capacity for language. Given the cultural specificity of such meaning-making activities (every culture in every era of human existence, after all, has its own stories of self that are told in its own inflections), interpretive analyses tend to avoid making strict causal claims about how the influence of statically fixed, isolate, and cross-cultural “independent variables” (e.g., income inequality, level of educational attainment, partisan identification) “cause” particular outcomes. Indeed, “interpretation begins from the postulate that the web of meaning constitutes human existence to such an extent that it cannot ever be meaningfully reduced to constitutively prior speech acts, dyadic relations, or any predefined elements.”19 Thus do interpretive scholars, according to Cramer, “use their work in order to . . . see connections . . . to situate particular phenomena within a cultural context that helps it to be more legible.”20

My examination of modern American conservatism is thus appropriately interpretive in character. It investigates, on one hand, the discursive conventions according to which prominent conservatives make sense of their selves, their desires, their fears, and the possibilities of action that attend contemporary American politics. It investigates, on the other hand, the many culturally specific connections between prominent conservatives, the movement of which they are a part, and the American polity they have frequently succeeded in remaking in their image. And it argues, finally, that the paradoxical discursive conventions that animate modern American conservatism—the distinctive vocabulary that at once champions paternal dictate and individual rights—work both to rejuvenate and unify a political movement and give rise to a paternal politics that ultimately troubles conservatism’s own stated goal of creating and promoting autonomous, rights-bearing citizens.

On Metaphor: Father Knows Best

Generous readers may be willing to grant the centrality of meaning-making activity to human life and thus be further willing to grant the political importance of the taken-for-granted languages with which we make sense of our lives with one another. But it’s one thing to claim that a distinguished, rarified discourse such as the language of individual rights exerts constitutive effects on the conduct of American citizenship.21 Isn’t it another thing altogether to assert that references, on one hand, to the nation’s “founding fathers” and, on the other hand, to the nation’s biological fathers, however obsessive such references might be, themselves do crucial work in the building, the sustaining, and, ultimately, the troubling of modern American conservatism?

Perhaps. As Corey Robin argues, conservatives of all sorts—old and new, American and otherwise—have consistently defended society’s prevailing orders of rule from potential subversion. And, according to Robin, the countersubversive tendencies of conservatives are especially pronounced when confronted with attacks on “private” sphere hierarchies—those that animate the workplace and, especially, the family. Fearing that “every great political blast . . . is set off by a private fuse,” conservatives have believed that discipline starts at home, and so they have worked to shore up the “private life of power.”22

It is thus unsurprising that modern American conservatives compulsively testify on behalf of paternal authority.23 Nor is it surprising that these tributes are consistently yoked to narratives of family trauma told by iconic conservative figures about their own lives and the lives of others. But isn’t all of this just verbiage? Isn’t it just linguistic cover for the real interests of conservatism—just pleasing nostalgia that hides modern American conservatism’s attempts to fortify conventional but eroding asymmetries of social power? Does it really matter, in a distinctively political sense, that American conservatives portray their mission as the arrangement of the American nation according to the desires of fathers past and present? What difference does it make that American conservatism is infatuated with paternal authority rather than some other totem of American life?

It makes, in short, a great deal of difference. Much language is, in fact, metaphoric in character. But as I have already implied, to identify language as metaphoric is not to strip it of its power to make worlds. Instead, as do all widely shared discourses, metaphors register at once in conceptual and normative domains: they both offer an explanation for how the world works and, accordingly, suggest a series of preferred and proscribed behaviors. The paternal authority discourse/metaphor does not neutrally describe or comment on an already existing reality; instead, it “partially constitutes [that] reality . . . [it] constructs, interprets, and reflects [reality].”24 By representing reality, it helps to constitute the possibilities of action that are widely present (because intelligible) or absent (because unintelligible) to most Americans most of the time.25

Accordingly, Raised Right pursues an analysis of modern American conservatism that pays equal heed to the paternal authority and rights discourses that infuse the movement and whose interplay, indeed, characterizes and propels it. In order to illuminate the centrality of these discursive conventions to modern conservatism, this book relies on substantive insights that are derived from feminist critical (especially psychoanalytic) and legal theory. In particular, it traces the negated, oppositional, and yet always intersubjective grounds of individual identity—grounds that, in the United States at least, tend to be inflected with gender and race-based dynamics.26 Indeed, the practice of “virtuous” citizenship—and the self-disciplined, autonomous subject of American lore who is capable of engaging in such practice—depends on a constant and thoroughgoing repression of those characteristics in one’s self (weakness, immaturity, irrationality, dependence, indolence, licentiousness) that are typically envisioned as barriers to autonomy. It involves also the projection of those disavowed personal characteristics onto a demonized, typically gendered and raced “other,” such that the characteristics that are ever present but forbidden in one’s self are employed as markers of illegitimacy.27 Jane Caputi makes the point: “’Otherness,’ the basis of oppression, is created when the self is split, and what is disowned, feared, and denied in the self is projected onto another being or group. The ‘other’ is then stigmatized and warred against.”28 Disavowal, projection, and stigmatization thus frequently sit at the leading edge of identity, including that of the autonomous subject who is the champion of conservative visions of American citizenship.

And as contemporary feminist theory, in particular, has established, the modern self’s identity as a mature, self-governing subject frequently relies on the suppression of the maternal realm and its avatars and the elevation of the paternal realm and its avatars. Indolence, dependence, immaturity, emotional attachment, sensuous orality, innocence, and nostalgia for the bliss of mother-infant (or “dual”) unity: all become human characteristics and states that are internalized negatively (or at least ambivalently), repressed into the unconscious, and identified with feminine influence. At the same time, the self-discipline that is said to mark a mature, modern state of autonomy is celebrated and associated with paternal influence.29

While the gendered basis of modern subjectivity tends to be general,30 it is especially constitutive of possibilities of action in a society such as the United States. First, Americans have conventionally designated child rearing to be women’s work that is confined to a “private” sphere of home and family that is hermetically sealed from the “public” masculine-coded world of business, politics, and influence. Second, as generations of commentators have noted, Americans have typically proclaimed that self-reliant, individualistic behavior is the key to worldly success and virtuous citizenship.31 American children, especially boys, thus tend to be conversant at an early age in a discourse that emphasizes how both worldly influence and legitimacy of self depend on leaving and overcoming the maternal world of sentiment, attachment, and nourishment and entering the paternal, public world of competition, where rational calculation and unsentimental logic are the coins of the realm.32 Accordingly, the maternal is a culturally ambivalent site: it speaks to both half-conscious desires of nostalgia, comfort, safety, and emotional attachment and to horror over the possibility of a maternal “reengulfment” and domination that would threaten the capacity of masculine autonomy that is said to animate virtuous American citizenship. DiStefano summarizes:

Difference and separation from a female (m)other characterize a boy’s quest for self within a familial and outlying social setting that is organized in segregated and hierarchical gendered terms. A concomitant aspect of this process is that the (m)other poses a significant threat to [an autonomy] acquired in rigid opposition to her.33

I appreciate that it is a potentially long distance from how gendered binaries give rise to a specifically masculinist identity in usually male children and adolescents to an appraisal of modern American conservatism. The problem is this: the personal and political narratives that are offered by iconic conservative figures (including the trio of Buckley, Reagan, and Thomas analyzed in this book) and mimicked by conservative intellectuals emphasize self-control, self-discipline, personal maturity, and, above all, the suppression of sentimental attachment in favor of logic and reason. Their narratives of successful American citizenship, that is, emphasize the suppression of the values associated with the maternal realm and the embrace of values associated with paternal influence. Their narratives also explicitly locate the discipline necessary for productive citizenship and legitimate rights practice in proper child rearing and family relations—in the positive influence of strong fathers (who are said to prepare children [boys especially] for a productive, self-disciplined, and, thus, autonomous life) and the negative influence of weak or absent fathers and neglectful or domineering mothers (who are said to smother children and so leave them undisciplined and vulnerable to noxious outside influences).34

This gendered discourse of family success and dysfunction recurs compulsively in the personal and political narratives of the American conservative icons that occupy the coming pages. The discourse is at times metaphorical and at other times literal in character, but it works for American conservatism, no matter its character, as both a bedrock explanation of the virtues and vices of the American nation and as a normative seedbed for what is to be done. This is a book, accordingly, that interprets modern American conservatism’s core belief that father knows best.


1. John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988).

2. William F. Buckley Jr., “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” in Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century, ed. William F. Buckley Jr. (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), xv.

3. William F. Buckley Jr., “Our Mission Statement,” National Review, November 19, 1955, 1.

4. Buckley, Jr., “Did You Ever,” xvi.

5. Ibid., xviii.

6. Ibid., xix–xxxii.

7. Ibid., xxxviii.

8. Ibid., xxxviii–xxxix.

9. Buckley, Jr., “Our Mission Statement,” 1.

10. See, generally and for example, Stuart A. Scheingold, The Politics of Rights: Lawyers, Public Policy, and Political Change, 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004); Michael W. McCann, Rights at Work: Pay Equity Reform and the Politics of Legal Mobilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994); Paul A. Passavant, No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). See also Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: Free Press, 1991).

11. Claire E. Rasmussen, The Autonomous Animal: Self-Governance and the Modern Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011); Jeffrey R. Dudas, Jon-Goldberg Hiller, and Michael W. McCann, “The Past, Present, and Future of Rights Scholarship,” in The Handbook of Law and Society, ed. Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 367–381.

12. There is a considerable scholarship establishing this point. Enduring works include Scheingold, The Politics of Rights; McCann, Rights at Work; and Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights. See also Elizabeth Schneider, “The Dialectic of Rights and Politics: Perspectives from the Women’s Movement,” New York University Law Review 61, no. 4 (1986): 589–652; Francesca Polletta, “The Structural Context of Novel Rights Claims: Southern Civil Rights Organizing, 1961–1966,” Law and Society Review 34, no. 2 (2000): 367–406; Didi Herman, Rights of Passage: Struggles for Lesbian and Gay Legal Equality (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994); David M. Engel and Frank W. Munger, Rights of Inclusion: Law and Identity in the Life Stories of Americans with Disabilities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); and Felicia A. Kornbluh, The Battle for Welfare Rights: Politics and Poverty in Modern America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).

13. Peter Fitzpatrick, The Mythology of Modern Law (London: Routledge, 1992), 9. See also John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 365–404; and Eve Darian-Smith, Religion, Race, Rights: Landmarks in the History of Modern Anglo-American Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2010).

14. Patricia Ewick and Susan S. Silbey, The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

15. I borrow the phrase empire’s children, even as I expand its application to include all of those peoples who have been subjugated by prevailing Anglo American orthodoxies, from Saada. Emmanuelle Saada, Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

16. McCann, Rights at Work, 272–276.

17. See, generally, Charles Taylor, “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man,” Review of Metaphysics 25, no. 1 (1971): 3–51.

18. “The interpretive approach,” write Rabinow and Sullivan, “emphatically refutes the claim that one can somehow reduce the complex world of signification to the products of . . . self-consciousness.” Paul Rabinow and William M. Sullivan, “The Interpretive Turn: A Second Look,” in Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, ed. Paul Rabinow and William M. Sullivan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 6.

19. Ibid.

20. Renée Ann Cramer, Pregnant with the Stars: Watching and Wanting, the Pregnant Celebrity Body (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016), 4–5. See also Michael W. McCann, “Causal versus Constitutive Explanations (or, On the Difficulty of Being So Positive),” Law and Social Inquiry 21, no. 2 (1996): 457–482; and Mary Hawkesworth, “Contending Conceptions of Science and Politics: Methodology and the Constitution of the Political,” in Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2006), 34–41.

21. As McCann writes, “Inherited legal conventions shape the very terms of citizen understanding, aspiration, and interaction with others.” McCann, Rights at Work, 6.

22. Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 9–10.

23. Burgess documents this compulsion in regard to theories of constitutional interpretation. She argues that the grounding of interpretive approaches in the supposed desires (and/or flaws) of the American founding fathers works at once to legitimize the interpretive approaches in question and limit the ability of those very approaches to respond in a persuasive fashion to contemporary dilemmas in American constitutional law. Susan Burgess, The Founding Fathers, Pop Culture, and Constitutional Law: Who’s Your Daddy? (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008).

24. Zillah R. Eisenstein, The Female Body and the Law (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 9.

25. Ibid., 6–13; Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 224–230. Jeffrey R. Dudas, The Cultivation of Resentment: Treaty Rights and the New Right (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 11–13.

26. See generally Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (New York: Pantheon, 1988); Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, [1990] 1999); Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights; Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997); Rasmussen, The Autonomous Animal.

27. Projection, writes Erik Erikson, occurs when “people see over-clearly in [others] what they wish not to recognize in themselves.” Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society, 2nd Edition (New York: Norton, 1963), 353. See also Benjamin’s penetrating analysis of how subject-object intersubjective dynamics, which first emerge in early childhood, constitute identity. Insisting on how identity depends on these dynamics of mutual recognition, Benjamin affirms how “we recognize ourselves in the other.” Benjamin, The Bonds of Love, 21. Or, as Julia Kristeva puts it, “The other is in me. It is my unconscious. And instead of searching for a scapegoat in the foreigner, I [should] try to tame the demons that are in me.” Julia Kristeva, “Cultural Strangeness and the Subject in Crisis,” in Julia Kristeva Interviews, ed. Ross Mitchell Guberman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 41.

28. Jane Caputi, Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, and Popular Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 14.

29. Christine DiStefano, Configurations of Masculinity: A Feminist Perspective on Modern Political Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 30–55; see also Caputi, Goddesses and Monsters; Rasmussen, The Autonomous Animal; and Mary Caputi, A Kinder, Gentler America: Melancholia and the Mythical 1950’s (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 43. Richard Slotkin’s discussion of the Moira-Themis tension plots this dynamic in early American literature, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1973] 2000), 6–14, while Michael Rogin’s Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (New York: Transaction Publishers, [1975] 1991), 19–37, exposes the gendered dynamics of early American political thought.

30. See Benjamin, The Bonds of Love, generally; and Caputi, Goddesses and Monsters, 6–14.

31. See, for example, Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), 276–287.

32. Boys, according to Benjamin, “develop [their] gender[s] and [identities] by means of establishing discontinuity and difference from the person to whom [they are] most attached. This process of disidentification explains the repudiation of the mother that underlies conventional masculine identity formation, and results in a kind of ‘fault line’ running through the male achievement of individuality.” Benjamin, The Bonds of Love, 75–76.

33. DiStefano, Configurations of Masculinity, 54.

34. Indeed, modern conservatives, according to Lakoff, imagine themselves as strong, stern fathers, and they envision liberals as weak, permissive parents. George Lakoff, Moral Politics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). See also Natasha Zaretsky, No Direction Home: The American Family and the Fear of National Decline, 1968–1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); and Dominic Sandbrook, Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970’s and the Rise of the Populist Right (New York: Knopf, 2011), 65–79.