'Here, There and Everywhere': Human Dignity in Contemporary Law and in the Transnational Discourse

64 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2011 Last revised: 12 Jun 2012

See all articles by Luís Roberto Barroso

Luís Roberto Barroso

Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro; Harvard Kennedy School

Date Written: August 30, 2011


Over the past several decades, human dignity has become an omnipresent idea in contemporary law. This Article surveys the use of human dignity by domestic and international courts and describes the concept’s growing role in transnational discourse, with special attention paid to the case law of the United States Supreme Court. The Article then examines the legal nature of human dignity, finding it to be a constitutional principle rather than a freestanding fundamental right, and develops a unifying and universal identity for the concept. At its core, human dignity contains three elements - intrinsic value, autonomy and community value - and each element has unique legal implications. The Article then considers how this elemental approach to human dignity analysis can assist in structuring legal reasoning and justifying judicial choices in hard cases, such as abortion, same-sex marriage and assisted suicide.

Keywords: Human dignity, constitutional law, comparative law

JEL Classification: K30

Suggested Citation

Barroso, Luis Roberto, 'Here, There and Everywhere': Human Dignity in Contemporary Law and in the Transnational Discourse (August 30, 2011). Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1945741

Luis Roberto Barroso (Contact Author)

Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro ( email )

Rua Sao Francisco Xavier, 524 - 7th floor
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 20559-900
55 21 2587-7100 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://lrbarroso.com.br

Harvard Kennedy School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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