Journal Article

Socioeconomic rights: Do they deliver the goods?

Dennis M. Davis

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 6, issue 3-4, pages 687-711
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Socioeconomic rights: Do they deliver the goods?

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • UK Politics


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The South African Constitution contains a series of social and economic rights that impose obligations upon the state to deliver basic goods and services to its citizens. The inclusion of these rights was the subject of intense debate during the negotiations leading to the introduction of the Constitution. The debate concerned the respective roles to be played by a democratically elected government and the judiciary. Analysis of key cases over the past fourteen years reveals that the judiciary has sought to strike a balance between holding the exercise of public power accountable to the Constitution and deferring to the policy choices of the government. This approach has resulted in very modest gains for the poor. Thus, socioeconomic rights may well promise more than they can deliver, but the modest consequence of compelling government to justify its policy choices when they affect the poorest of the poor should not be discounted.

Journal Article.  11021 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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