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The papers gathered in this volume analyze access to justice in Latin America, Europe, and North America from a philosophical, legal, and sociological perspective. In these three regions of the world, as in the rest of the globe, liberal democracies face a troubling gap between the normative and the descriptive: the access to justice promises made by the legal and political system are not fully realized in practice. The studies collected here, therefore, share two baseline assumptions. First, the right of access to justice is fundamental in a liberal state. Access to justice ensures that citizens are able to defend their interests in court and achieve full inclusion in the political community. Access to justice, as argued by social contract theory, is at the core of liberal democracies' normative projects. In the liberal democracies studied in this special issue - as in all others influenced by the post-Enlightenment modern project - contractualism and its commitment to access to justice is part of the of theoretical toolbox used to constitute and legitimize the political community. For all of these liberal democracies, access to justice is necessary for achieving peace and prosperity, and for the full inclusion of all citizens in the polity.

Second, the papers gathered in this volume agree that epistemological, socioeconomic, and legal market disparities obstruct the materialization of the right that citizens have to access courts and the administration to solve their conflicts. The key objectives pursued by liberal democracies cannot be fully realized because of poverty and inequality. Both variables have a causal relationship with the access to justice deficits faced by the countries studied in this special issue.