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Constituent PowerLaw, Popular Rule and Politics$
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Matilda Arvidsson, Leila Brännström, and Panu Minkkinen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474454971

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474454971.001.0001

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‘Enemies of the People’? The Judiciary and Claude Lefort’s ‘Savage Democracy’

‘Enemies of the People’? The Judiciary and Claude Lefort’s ‘Savage Democracy’

(p.27) 1 ‘Enemies of the People’? The Judiciary and Claude Lefort’s ‘Savage Democracy’
Constituent Power

Panu Minkkinen

Edinburgh University Press

The chapter attempts to, first, clarify the position of human rights in Claude Lefort's unique blend of phenomenologically and psychoanalytically inspired political theory. Human rights, and by extension rights more generally, are in this account an integral element of a 'savage democracy' that Lefort envisioned as the only plausible challenge to the totalitarian tendencies of neoliberalism. From this starting point, the chapter will then discuss the position of the judiciary in contemporary democracies. Standard accounts of the separation of powers reduce the courts' constitutional functions to the application and interpretation of laws issued by an elected legislator. But as the relationship between the legislator and the executive has changed, so, too, has the relative position of the judiciary. A strong executive as the engine of legislative initiatives, supported by a weak 'rubber-stamp' legislature, has highlighted the need to emphasise the democratic potential of the judiciary that goes beyond the 'deferential' role of standard accounts. The chapter will provide a theoretical framework for understanding this democratic role through Lefort's account of human rights.

Keywords:   Agonism, judiciary, human rights, Claude Lefort

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