The Judicialization of Politics

Ran Hirschl

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

 The Judicialization of Politics

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  • Politics
  • Politics and Law
  • Comparative Politics


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The judicialization of politics—the reliance on courts and judicial means for addressing core moral predicaments, public policy questions, and political controversies—is arguably one of the most significant phenomena of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century government. Armed with newly acquired judicial review procedures, national high courts worldwide have been frequently asked to resolve a range of issues from the scope of expression and religious liberties and privacy to property, trade and commerce, education, immigration, labor, and environmental protection. This article analyzes the scope, nature, and causes of the judicialization of politics, as well as judicial behavior, recent jurisprudence of courts and tribunals worldwide, and the judicialization of “mega-politics” or “pure” politics—the transfer to courts of contentious issues of an outright political nature and significance. Questions of pure politics include electoral processes and outcomes, restorative justice, regime legitimacy, executive prerogatives, collective identity, and nation building. These developments reflect the demise of the “political question” doctrine, and mark a transition to what is termed “juristocracy.”

Keywords: courts; judicialization of politics; judicial review; judicial behavior; jurisprudence; mega-politics; restorative justice; juristocracy; political question doctrine; legitimacy

Article.  10103 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law ; Comparative Politics

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