Proceduralism and the epistemic dilemma of Supreme Courts

Social Epistemology 31 (3):310-323 (2017)
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Proceduralists hold that democracy has a non-instrumental value consisting in the ideal of equality incorporated by fair procedures. Yet, proceduralism does not imply that every outcome of a democratic procedure is fair per se. In the non-ideal setting of constitutional democracies, government and legislative decisions may result from factional conflicts, or depend on majoritarian dictatorships. In these circumstances, Supreme Courts provide a guardianship against contested outcomes by enacting mechanisms of checks and balances, constitutional interpretation and judicial review. Yet, in virtue of this role, Supreme Courts exercise a form of epistocratic power, which rests at odds with the ideal of political equality. We analyse this dilemma and propose a solution, arguing that Supreme Courts do not run unrestrained decisions; rather their decisional power is bound to the protective function of fundamental rights, in which their constitutional mandate ultimately consists.



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Author Profiles

Federica Liveriero
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia
Daniele Santoro
Universidade do Minho