Toward an equality-promoting interpretation of socio-economic rights in South Africa: Insights from the egalitarian liberal tradition

Authors Sandra Liebenberg

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: H F Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law, Stellenbosch University
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 132 Issue 2, 2015, p. 411 – 437


Theorists within the egalitarian liberal tradition have grappled with the question of how to achieve an alignment between the attribution of equal worth and citizenship to each person and the distribution of material resources in democratic societies. Their insights are relevant to devising constitutionally grounded strategies for redressing the intertwined challenges of poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. This article examines the implications of these theories for integrating the value of equality in the interpretation of socio-economic rights by the courts. It concludes that Nancy Fraser’s principle of parity of participation offers rich possibilities for rendering both reasonableness review and the application of socio-economic rights to contractual relations more responsive to systemic social and economic inequalities.