Chapter 4: Democratic transformations in the United Kingdom: the potential of human dignity
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This chapter focuses on the emergence of human dignity as a fundamental legal value in the United Kingdom, and the ways that judges are exploring its potential for reshaping the meaning of democracy. It evaluates how the concept of human dignity has been relied on, in some of the seminal cases that concern the extent of judicial power under the Human Rights Act 1998, to support a substantive account of democracy as a community of moral equals. A range of theories are relied on to draw out and expand upon some of the features of such a community that are identified in the cases. The chapter summarises that a community of equals is one in which each person has the moral authority to address - and reciprocal responsibility to answer - demands to be treated in a way that reflects the equality of their worth. It explains that this means ensuring that each person has the opportunity to shape the collective decisions of the community, to ensure that they reflect the equal importance of their basic needs and their interests in fulfilling their creative potential. Furthermore, it requires that a collective decision can be justified based on principles that express respect for the equal worth of all. Central to the account of democracy that is being developed by judges, is a more constructive vision of the relationships between the individual, wider community, and the public institutions that represent that community. With reference to the cases, the chapter highlights how the concept of respect for equal dignity is seen as essential to supporting relationships that are to the benefit of the individual and to the vitality of the community as a whole.

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