The Role of the Courts in Arendt's Political Constitutionalism
14 Pages Posted: 4 May 2010 Last revised: 10 May 2010
Date Written: May 3, 2010
Being not a systematic theorist, Arendt did not provide a full-fledged theory of the role judges should play in her idea of constitutionalism. This paper intends to reconstruct Arendt’s ambivalent position towards the judiciary by focusing, in particular, on the Supreme Court, an institution that attracted Arendt’s interest as it is demonstrated by the remarks she made in different texts. The aim is to verify if Arendt was a strong supporter of judicial review, a view that may seem prima facie plausible. In order to assess Arendt’s inclination for the judiciary, we will first concentrate on her reading of the Supreme Court in On Revolution. Then, we will focus on Civil Disobedience where she seems to take a more skeptical stance on judicial review. Both texts signal her cautious evaluation of the Court’s record and show that she did not take legal authority, as embodied by the Court, to be sufficient for grounding a constitution. Taking the contemporary debate between political and legal constitutionalists as the benchmark for assessing Arendt’s position, we eventually show that Arendt was closer to an “impure” political constitution.
Keywords: Hannah Arendt, Supreme Court, Judicial Review, Political Constitutionalism
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