The Trajectories of European and American Antidiscrimination Law
29 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2011
Date Written: October 28, 2011
There is an apparently sharp contrast in the respective state of antidiscrimination law in Europe and the United States at present. In Europe, antidiscrimination norms are proliferating, within both the European Union and the Council of Europe systems, and elaborate networks and programs of implementation are being established and funded. The grounds of discrimination are widening, the norms are being strengthened and the new laws are being actively litigated. In the United States, by comparison, decades of social and political backlash have significantly weakened the corpus of antidiscrimination law that emerged from the civil rights movement, and the courts have become an arena for ideological battle. Yet, even if certain juridico-cultural differences in conceptions of equality and discrimination between the two jurisdictions are evident, none of the likely explanations for such a stark contrast between the state of antidiscrimination law and policy in each seems fully convincing. On a closer analysis, it seems that the future of antidiscrimination law and policy in Europe faces equally daunting challenges, even if the body of law in question is decades younger and less tested than its U.S. counterpart. One of the themes emerging from this collection of essays, however, is that there are similarities in the way problems of entrenched inequality are being addressed and in some of the solutions being tested both in the United States and in Europe. In particular, there has been a shift away from traditional judicial remedies and towards renewed administrative as well as other more innovative approaches in both jurisdictions. In the United States, this seems to be prompted in part by disillusionment with the current legal stalemate, while in Europe some of the novel approaches - including the spread of equality bodies, parity democracy, and proactive public duties - are being promoted by international and European institutions.
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