Exit Hercules -- Ronald Dworkin and the Crisis of the Age of Rights
18 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2013
Date Written: June 10, 2013
This paper is about the end of an era as well as the end of its hero. The era is that of rights; its hero is Ronald Dworkin. Throughout his life, Dworkin saw the emergence, ascent, triumph and eventually crisis of the moral idea of rights in the US and abroad. His work has incessantly defended rights as the backbone of liberal democracies and suggested that judges were the gatekeepers of rights. Dworkin always resisted and dismissed the suggestion that rights might clash and might be incapable to yield one right answer after appropriate deliberation. His imagined judge, Hercules, is deemed to be capable to find a solution to all the quandaries in a Republic. But just like in a grand Greek tragedy, time has shown that rights have their own inner limitations. Rights can conflict in a way that does not lend to a right answer. Moreover, rights may not always be the engine of social progress but may indeed be a source of endless disagreement and polarisation of the society. When that happens, Hercules may try to use all his strength to fuel hope and faith in rights and in liberal democracies. But at times, he will have to exit the scene by acknowledging the stalemate, the state of relentless disagreement and inability to cope with diversity. Exit Hercules, and thus ends the tale of rights.
Keywords: rights, tragedy, pluralism, monism, interpretation, liberalism, judicial review, liberal agenda
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