Constitutional Conversations
Edited by Stu Woolman & Michael Bishop
ISBN: 978-0-9814124-1-2
Pages: xii 347
Print version: Available
Electronic version: Free PDF available

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About the publication

This collection of colloquies flows from the Constitutional Law of South Africa Public Lecture Series held last year. The contributors to the nine colloquies include four Constitutional Court Justices, some of the world’s leading constitutional law scholars and some of the best of South Africa’s own legal academy.

“Each of the topics [canvassed in this work] is engaged by two commentators in dialogue form: the views of one commentator are first advanced, to which a second commentator replies. The result is a satisfying conversation that edifies the reader both in areas of well thought-out agreement and in areas of disagreement. This book thus contributes greatly to the vital debate in legal circles and civil society at large about a select number of core problems arising from our Constitution. It does so in a manner that demonstrates how to argue productively about basic questions of law and human rights. And it is full of constructive proposals that will light the way along South Africa’s new path. For that, the editors of and contributors to Constitutional Conversations can only be commended.”

- Pius Langa ‘Foreword’
Chief Justice of South Africa

“In my view, if the debates involving judges and scholars that led to this book are anything to go by, dialogue between the judiciary and the academic world is likely to become increasingly fruitful in the years to come. US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, whom I love to quote, sardonically remarked that the ‘Court does not have the last word because it is infallible. It is infallible because it has the last word.’ We judges have to acknowledge, however, that the last word on the infallibility of the judges themselves will lie with the academic critics. O dialogo continua! Long may the dialogue continue!”

- Albie Sachs ‘A gentle provocation’
Judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa

About the editors:

Stu Woolman is the Academic Director at the South Africa Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law.
Michael Bishop

Table of Contents

Chief Justice Pius Langa
Introduction: Law’s autonomy
Stu Woolman & Michael Bishop


  • The South African Constitution as the last great modernist project
    Stu Woolman
    Reply: A gentle provocation
    Justice Albie Sachs
  • Constitutional supremacy and appellate jurisdiction in South Africa
    Frank Michelman
    Reply: On the reach of the Constitution and the nature of constitutional jurisdiction
    Justice Kate O’Regan
  • The principle of democracy in South African constitutional law
    Theunis Roux
    Reply: Writing the law democratically
    Danie Brand
  • True in theory, true in practice: Why direct application still matters
    Stu Woolman
    Reply: Summarising Proust
    Iain Currie
  • Limitations: Shared constitutional interpretation, an appropriate normative framework and hard choices
    Stu Woolman & Henk Botha
    Reply: Sharing interpretation
    Johan van der Walt
  • The widening gyre of dignity
    Stu Woolman
    Reply: The soul of dignity
    Justice Laurie Ackermann
  • Towards a substantive right to equality
    Cathi Albertyn & Beth Goldblatt
    Reply: A cautionary note regarding substantive equality
    Karthy Govender
  • The ‘arbitrary deprivation’ vortex: Constitutional property law after FNB
    Theunis Roux
    Reply: Against regulatory taking: In defence of the two-stage inquiry
    Frank Michelman
  • Socio-economic rights: Revisiting the reasonableness review/minimum core debate
    Sandra Liebenberg
    Reply: On ‘dialogue’, ‘translation’ and ‘voice’
    Marius Pieterse

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