Social Rights Constitutionalism: Negotiating the Tension between the Universal and the Particular

Posted: 11 Nov 2015

See all articles by Daniel M. Brinks

Daniel M. Brinks

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Varun Gauri

World Bank; World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Kyle Shen

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Date Written: November 2015

Abstract

The increasing importance of social rights language in constitutional texts and in the politics of social provision and human security has triggered a voluminous academic literature. Despite its global origins, we argue, social rights language goes through a process of vernacularization, through which it transforms and is transformed by local politics. The process begins when particular rights are included in constitutional texts and continues when local groups take hold of that language to express their particular aspirations. The struggle to realize social rights is a political one, grounded in and pursued through local structures of demand. In the course of that struggle, rights acquire local particularities. At the same time, the global origins and universal language of rights can open possibilities for subordinate groups to challenge the status quo. Whether or not social rights constitutionalism in the end improves the situation for these groups or simply reinforces the status quo depends on the outcome of this vernacularization process, rather than on any a priori features of social rights language or social constitutionalism.

Suggested Citation

Brinks, Daniel M. and Gauri, Varun and Shen, Kyle, Social Rights Constitutionalism: Negotiating the Tension between the Universal and the Particular (November 2015). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 11, pp. 289-308, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2688977 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110413-030654

Daniel M. Brinks (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

Varun Gauri

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/vgauri

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Kyle Shen

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

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