Constitutionalism in the Americas
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Constitutionalism in the Americas

Edited by Colin Crawford and Daniel Bonilla Maldonado

Constitutionalism in the Americas unites the work of leading scholars of constitutional law, comparative law and Latin American and U.S. constitutional law to provide a critical and provocative look at the state of constitutional law across the Americas today. The diverse chapters employ a variety of methodologies – empirical, historical, philosophical and textual analysis – in the effort to provide a comprehensive look at a generation of constitutional change across two continents.
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Chapter 7: Socioeconomic rights and majoritarian courts in Latin America

David Landau


This chapter provides an analysis of the judicialization of socioeconomic rights in Latin America. Landau argues that over the last few decades, the courts of the region have made it possible for socioeconomic rights to be judicially enforced. Nevertheless, Landau also indicates that the effect of this judicial application of socioeconomic rights has had little impact on the levels of social justice in the region. For Landau, this paradox could be explained if it becomes evident that the courts are institutions that usually protect the positions of the social majorities and therefore tend to favor the interests of the politically powerful sectors. For Landau, this pattern of behavior has two primary components in Latin American constitutional courts: the model of individual application of socioeconomic rights and negative judicial requirements. Landau finds, however, that some patterns of Latin American case law go against the arguments that are typically presented in the dominant constitutional doctrine on socioeconomic rights. One the one hand, for Landau, the courts fill the void left by institutions that defraud the population by non-compliance with their duties with respect to socioeconomic rights. On the other hand, courts block unpopular measures taken by governments as a consequence of pressure from powerful national and international interests. Finally, Latin American case law on socioeconomic rights contributes to the creation of a constitutional culture that brings constitutions closer to the citizens, making law relevant in their daily lives.

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