Are human rights moralistic?
journal contributionposted on 27.07.2021, 11:17 by Guy AitchisonGuy Aitchison
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature. In this paper, I engage with the radical critique of human rights moralism. Radical critics argue that: (i) human rights are myopic (they overlook important dimensions of power); (ii) human rights are demobilising (they obscure political conflict); (iii) human rights are paternalistic (they undermine political agency); and (iv) human rights are monopolistic (they displace more radical, collectivist ideologies). I argue that critics offer important insights into the limits of human rights as a language of social justice. However, critics err insofar as they imply that human rights are irredeemably corrupted and they under-estimate the subversive potential of the moral ideas that underpin the discourse. Building on the idea of human rights as claims, I set out the politicising features of human rights as they are deployed in a practical context of disagreement, conflict, and imbalances of power. I illustrate this discussion with reference to the contemporary struggles of irregular migrants.
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Politics and International Studies