More and more (especially recent) constitutions recognise the existence of economic and social rights. At the same time, these rights are being used to a greater extent to justify claims against the state and other entities. Courts and quasi-judicial entities (such as human rights commissions) are increasingly becoming the venues in which these claims are made. In this article we examine the causes and consequences of economic and social rights litigation, with a particular focus on education and health rights. We analyse how much, and on which issues, civil society and other actors resort to courts; what conditions must be present for claimants to be able to make extensive use of legal strategies; and under what circumstances court cases generalise and affect social policy.