|Book Title||Social Rights in Europe|
|Book Author||de Búrca, Gráinne and de Witte, Bruno (eds.)|
|Bibliographic Information||Oxford University Press, 2005, Pages : 376+, £27.50 , ISBN 0-19-928799-6|
Social Rights in Europe. Edited by Grainne de Búrca and Bruno de Witte. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 376. £27.50.
Reviewed by Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh.
The impact of edited books (as opposed to the individual essays in such books) is often weakened by the absence of a coherent theme or message which the book is seeking to communicate. This collection of essays by a diverse group of scholars, most of whom are based in European institutions of higher education or international organisations, does not suffer from this failing. It addresses, from a variety of perspectives, the current legal position and possible future trajectory of social rights in Europe. Necessarily, the volume needs to address the sticky question of ‘what are social rights’, and equally inevitably the contributors do not all adopt quite the same position. Some adopt a definition which is parasitic upon existing legal instruments, by defining social rights precisely as those covered by the European Social Charter, which is one of the legal instruments under review in the book. Others assume that social rights fall within the broad purview of the themes covered in Part IV of the book, related to employment, social inclusion, and health care. Yet others assess the role of social (and economic) rights in relation to questions of redistribution as a core human value, rather than liberty or physical integrity, which lie at the heart of civil rights.
In addition, to the European Social Charter, the other set of legal instruments under review are those to be found in EU law, including the existing treaties, legislation and case law, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Constitutional Treaty. In relation to both the ESC and EU law, the issues addressed concern questions of identification of rights, identification of the beneficiaries of rights, and mechanisms of (legal and non-legal) protection. Thus a full range of issues concerned with soft law mechanisms as well as judicial enforcement is canvassed in the various chapters.
It is hard indeed to do justice to such a wide-ranging collection of seventeen essays, plus a very useful bibliography, in a very short essay. However, what is important to note is that this collection works as a coherent whole, bringing together the expertise of its contributors to fill a gap in the literature in relation to social rights in Europe which it is hard to imagine a single contributor having the expertise to address so effectively.