Thread of Ariadne or road to nowhere? Discourse of fundamental rights in foreign private law

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Author: Alexei Kartsov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2023-4-147-162

Keywords: constitutionalization; private law; discourse of fundamental rights; horizontal effect of fundamental rights; indirect effect of fundamental rights; direct effect of fundamental rights


The article analyzes foreign doctrinal approaches to the influence of constitutionalization on the private law of countries belonging to the Romano-Germanic and Anglo-Saxon legal systems and primarily to the prevailing form of this influence, which is the discourse of fundamental rights. This discourse affects private law in the modalities of subordination (direct horizontal effect or direct effect) and complementarity (indirect horizontal effect or indirect effect). The first modality, in which fundamental rights directly affect relations between individuals, is characterized by private law’s loss of regulatory and methodological autonomy. In the case of the second modality, autonomy is preserved and the influence of the discourse of fundamental rights occurs indirectly, through the reinterpretation of individual legal mechanisms by higher courts. Three approaches are distinguished in discussion of these issues. The first approach is represented by enthusiasts who believe that constitutionalization contributes to the modernization of civil law, making it more flexible and relevant to modern conditions and mitigating the adverse consequences of the privatization of public services in the transition from a welfare state to a “service state”. The second approach is that of legal realists who are convinced that constitutionalization, without affecting the essence of judicial decisions, only modifies the arsenal of arguments available to judges in both moderate (indirect effect) and radical (direct effect) expressions. The third approach encompasses the entire spectrum of criticism of the constitutionalization of private law, from moderate pessimism regarding its individual manifestations to uncompromising rejection of the whole. The conclusion is justified that under the guise of the discourse of fundamental rights, basic values that are fundamental for private legal relations (equality of parties, freedom of contract, and private autonomy) should not be distorted or devalued. Therefore the preferable form of promoting the discourse of fundamental rights is by indirect effect, which preserves the autopoiesis of private law and does not neglect the methods of resolving conflicts of interests and rights developed within it.

About the author: Alexei Kartsov – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Professor, Northwestern Institute of Management of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Kartsov A. (2023) Nit’ Ariadny ili doroga v nikuda? Diskurs osnovnykh prav v zarubezhnom chastnom prave [Thread of Ariadne or road to nowhere? Discourse of fundamental rights in foreign private law]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 147–162. (In Russian).


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