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In countries and supranational entities around the globe, constitutional reform has transferred an unprecedented amount of power from representative institutions to judiciaries. The constitutionalization of rights and the establishment of judicial review are widely believed to have benevolent and progressive origins, and significant redistributive, power-diffusing consequences. Ran Hirschl challenges this conventional wisdom.
Drawing upon a comprehensive comparative inquiry into the political origins and legal consequences of the recent constitutional revolutions in Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa, Hirschl shows that the trend toward constitutionalization is hardly driven by politicians' genuine commitment to democracy, social justice, or universal rights. Rather, it is best understood as the product of a strategic interplay among hegemonic yet threatened political elites, influential economic stakeholders, and judicial leaders. This self-interested coalition of legal innovators determines the timing, extent, and nature of constitutional reforms.
Hirschl demonstrates that whereas judicial empowerment through constitutionalization has a limited impact on advancing progressive notions of distributive justice, it has a transformative effect on political discourse. The global trend toward juristocracy, Hirschl argues, is part of a broader process whereby political and economic elites, while they profess support for democracy and sustained development, attempt to insulate policymaking from the vicissitudes of democratic politics.
A truly impressive piece of research, comprehensive in coverage of the relevant scholarship, cogently argued, and elegantly presented.
— Leslie Friedman Goldstein
Even if the reader does not agree with Hirschl's final thoughts, his thought-provoking conclusions will inspire questions regarding the role of the judiciary in constitutional democracies and encourage critical reflection regarding the future of judicial review.
— Shannon M. Roesler
Hirschl suggests that the 'new constitutionalism,' widely hailed as an important step in the protection of human rights, should instead be understood as part of a larger effort by elites to 'insulate policy making' from democratic impulses. Hirschl draws on the experience of constitutional revolutions in Canada, New Zealand, Israel, and South Africa...This is an ambitious and important book.
— J. E. Finn
Ran Hirschl has written a thought-provoking assessment of the global shift towards judicial empowerment...His conclusions and analysis are bound to elicit praise and criticism from across the spectrum of academic and political thought...Towards Juristocracy is an impressive book that will certainly engender more debate than it resolves. For this, Hirschl should be commended for a work that will certainly shape political science analysis of the courts and constitutionalism for some time.
— Mark Rush
It casts issues in a novel light and raises questions that tend to be neglected by more normatively focused or legalistic scholarship. It is well written and documented, and it contains a large number of suggestions for further research. It also opens a fruitful path of dialogue between legal and political science scholars that one hopes will be expanded in the future.
— Carlos Closa
1. Four Constitutional Revolutions
2. The Political Origins of Constitutionalization
3. Hegemonic Preservation in Action
4. Constitutionalization and Judicial Interpretation of Rights
5. Rights and Realities
6. Constitutionalization and the Judicialization of Mega-Politics
Conclusion: The Road to Juristocracy and the Limits of Constitutionalization
Legal Decisions Cited