The Un-Tied Kingdom
Britain’s Shrinking Executive

Britain is leaping head first into the juridicalization of its politics. It will regret it.

Appeared in: Volume 9, Number 6 | Published on: June 15, 2014
Frank Furedi is professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.
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  • qet

    Writing in 1995, Theodore Porter observed: ““In recent decades, democratic politics has been
    decisive in forming a context of overwhelming distrust, or at least distrust of
    personal judgment.” He also noted, with respect to the US, that: “American courts, which in recent years have
    spread their dominion over more and more of public life, have worked also to
    limit everybody’s discretion except their own.” Here, and also in the UK from what I can tell, juridification of private life outpaces juridification of public life.

    The UK Parliament and the American Congress have abdicated their roles as the accountable, responsible decision agencies and diffused decisionmaking authority among too-numerous-to-count administrative agencies (in the US, administrative agencies technically are part of the Executive Branch), quangos (first time I’ve heard that term) and the judiciary in order to avoid personal responsibility and accountability for the increasing amount of governing going on. Political careers tend to be cut short when decisions can be traced back to an elected representative.

    I submit that the distrust arises from too much governance. People are weary of being governed ever more closely. The “legal activists” mentioned by the author are the people in both countries who desperately, as an existential imperative for them, want to govern others, through whatever vehicles they can capture, whether administrative agencies, courts or the EU Parliament. Political unaccountability is the primary requirement, as voters tend to “hold accountable” anyone who inflicts too much governance upon them, if they can. The governance must be made to appear as not the result of anyone’s personal judgment.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Juridification is such a cool (?) word that my spell-checker underlines it in red—-refusing to be convinced the word exists. Similarly, the Internet is not even particularly helpful with consistent definition. So why not make up our own?

    If juridification involves real juries making decisions in employee/employer disputes, then it would help make us a better country—–because society could enjoy the positive benefits from REAL whistle-blowing by the knowledgeable underlings in nearly everything.

    If juridification means a Republican House Speaker can sue a Democratic President for a politicized result in front of our ridiculously-partisan Republican Supreme Court, then it is not a good thing at all.

    Who knows what the heck it means in the USA, really?

    • Breif2

      I’d say most people have a fair idea of what it means since Roe vs Wade.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Should we assume you feel the same way about Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka—–an also-controversial decision which, like Roe, expanded individual rights over the heads of recalcitrant voters and their legislators?

        • Breif2

          To the extent that I believe that I believe the Brown decision to have a much firmer basis in the (democratically approved) constitution than the tortured Roe decision, no.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Good. As soon as you understand that half the society (women) do not really “need” the other half (men) to democratically-approve whether they give birth or not, you’ll be on your way forward.

          • Breif2

            You seem to be laboring (so to speak) under the misapprehension that I am debating abortion rather than discussing the issue of democracy vs juridification.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, yeah, since you bought it up.

          • Breif2

            FriendlyGoat: Just what does the “politicization of academia” mean?
            Breif2: ASA decision to boycott Israel.
            FriendlyGoat: So you’re supporting the Israeli occupation?

  • Anthony

    If one leaves essay with only “…and helps empty public life of any meaning or larger moral purpose”, then author’s contribution transcends Atlantic. And hopefully how relations of authority are constituted and challenged may yet redound to positive human outcomes going forward.

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