As Pierre Manent has observed, human rights law has become, for many people in Western countries, not merely a substitute for religion but a new religion in itself. Once one thinks about it, the point seems inescapable. Human rights adherents have their own sacred texts, their own mystic doctrines, and their own robed clergy—more often called “judges.”

Martin Loughlin, Professor of Public Law at the London School of Economics, is against all that. He sees it as a sham that empowers a small, educated elite against the rest of society. So I wanted to like this book. But in a mere 200 pages, Loughlin utterly crushed my initial sympathies for his effort.

There are two main problems. The first is that the book does not mount its arguments against constitutionalism in a clear, direct way. Instead, Loughlin offers a meandering survey of what various scholars—mostly contemporary legal scholars, sometimes social scientists, now and then classic writers—have said about this and that. It’s hard to follow what these various testimonies contribute to the case against constitutionalism, and Loughlin does not pause long enough to cross-examine their claims. The book reads less like an impassioned brief than the scattered comments of an opinionated professor in a graduate seminar.

From what he says, for example, I gather that Loughlin believes Carl Schmitt scored

Subscribe for access This article is reserved for subscribers.