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Fall 2021 Reading Group

Knowledge Institutions in Constitutional Democracies

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Knowledge institutions are both public and private; some have clear constitutional protections, others do not. Knowledge institutions include a free press, colleges and universities, libraries, NGOs and government offices that collect and disseminate objective data; some social media might be viewed as new kinds of knowledge institutions. Constitutionalists in this country have long been familiar with the centrality of rights of freedom of speech, association and of the free press, to the well-functioning of U.S. representative democracy. But institutions matter as well as rights. Knowledge institutions include public as well as private entities, government offices like the Census Bureau, the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the CDC, and statistical offices in executive departments, like the Department of Justice or the Department of Agriculture. (We might also consider whether courts should be considered knowledge institutions, to the extent that they provide determinations of facts in legal disputes based on a set of regularized procedures? legislative bodies to the extent that they engage in formalized findings of facts?) Questions to explore include: what are common characteristics (if any) of knowledge institutions? how do their roles differ? are their roles in representative democracies different from their roles in other systems of governance? how does the U.S. protect knowledge institutions? how do other constitutional democracies protect knowledge institutions? should existing legal regimes affecting knowledge institutions be changed? This reading group may also help theorize connections among different knowledge institutions in constitutional democracies in ways that cut across existing legal categories.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: Sept. 9, Sept. 30, Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 11, and Dec. 2.