Horizontal rights : constitutionalism and the transformation of the private sphere




Bambrick, Christina Rose

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Though jurists have traditionally understood the constitution as a separate kind of law that obligates only the state, courts increasingly understand constitutions as creating obligations for private actors such as private individuals, businesses, schools, and hospitals. The practice of applying rights “horizontally” to private actors raises a range of questions from the theoretical to the practical and from the jurisprudential to the political. I argue that we better understand the practical and political implications of such “horizontal rights” by studying them through the lens of republican political theory. Specifically, republicanism grounds (and foregrounds) the solidarity between citizens and the uniformity between public and private spheres that horizontality ascertains. Applying this framework, I examine constitutional debates, court cases, and political histories to show how courts have applied rights horizontally across time, place, and subject-matter. By situating my study in the larger historical-political context of each place, I examine the conditions that surround the horizontal application of constitutional rights to individual citizens and other private actors. Chapter I lays out this theoretical grounding, drawing on classical and neo-republican theory to demonstrate the explanatory power of this framework. In the next two chapters, I examine the development of horizontal rights in national contexts, contrasting efforts to bring solidarity to the private sphere in India and the United States (Chapter II), and comparing attempts to establish uniform standards to govern public and private spheres in Germany and South Africa (Chapter III). Chapter IV extends this discussion to the European Union, considering how the republican framework for horizontal effect accounts for duties and standards occurring across national boundaries. In accounting for the practical power of courts to determine the rights and duties of private entities, this project contributes to our knowledge of how constitutional politics shape conceptions of public and private in our increasingly pluralistic world. This research engages and contributes to law and courts scholarship in political science. However, its findings will be of interest to all scholars interested the relationship between the state and civil society.



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