A major American legal thinker, the late Ronald Dworkin also helped shape new dispensations in the Global South. In South Africa, in particular, his work has been fiercely debated in the context of one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. Despite Dworkin’s discomfort with that document’s enshrinement of “socioeconomic rights,” his work enables an important defense of a jurisprudence premised on justice, rather than on legitimacy.
Beginning with a critical overview of Dworkin’s work culminating in his two principles of dignity, Cornell and Friedman turn to Kant and Hegel for an approach better able to ground the principles of dignity Dworkin advocates. Framed thus, Dworkin’s challenge to legal positivism enables a theory of constitutional revolution in which existing legal structures are transformatively revalued according to ethical mandates. By founding law on dignity, Dworkin begins to articulate an ethical jurisprudence responsive to the lived experience of injustice. This book, then, articulates a revolutionary constitutionalism crucial to the struggle for decolonization.
This pathbreaking work puts the revolutionary achievement of the South African Constitution and the interpretive work of the South African constitutional court in the illuminating perspective of the best theory of constitutional interpretation now available, the neo-Kantian theory of equal dignity of Ronald Dworkin. It shows clearly how the work of our best constitutional courts—the South African court among them—is now a common humane enterprise for the protection of universal human rights under the rule of law throughout the world.
—David A.J. Richards
New York University School of Law
“The Mandate of Dignity is an ambitious undertaking that contributes importantly to ongoing debates within jurisprudence and political philosophy as well as more specific controversies regarding constitutional law and transitional justice in South Africa.”
Purchase College, SUNY