The selfless constitution : experimentalism and flourishing as foundations of South Africa's basic law, S. Woolman : book review

Botha, Henk (2014-01)


Stu Woolman's new book is an ambitious work, which expounds a theory of constitutionalism which breaks with traditional understandings of the self, the social and constitutional law, and seeks to reconceive them in a number of ways. This it does by drawing on a wide variety of scientific fields, theoretical endeavours, analogies and metaphors. To mention but a few examples: global neuronal workspace theory and experimental philosophy are enlisted to problematise and point beyond metaphysical conceptions of selfhood and individual freedom; the notions of feedback mechanisms, choice architecture and social capital are employed to rethink the social and the possibility of social change; and concepts such as shared constitutional interpretation and participatory bubbles are developed as a way out of the stale oppositions that tend to characterise constitutional thought. Throughout, the author takes great pains to relate these diverse concepts and theories to each other, and to weave the different strands into a coherent and defensible theory of constitutional adjudication.

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