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Rights, citizenship and political struggle

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journal contribution
posted on 27.07.2021, 12:57 by Guy AitchisonGuy Aitchison
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015. This paper adds a new perspective to recent debates about the political nature of rights through attention to their distinctive role within social movement practices of moral critique and social struggle. The paper proceeds through a critical examination of the Political Constitutionalist theories of rights politics proposed by Jeremy Waldron and Richard Bellamy. While political constitutionalists are correct to argue that rights are ‘contestable’ and require democratic justification, they construe political activity almost exclusively with reference to voting, parties and parliamentary law-making, neglecting the vital role rights play in political struggle outside and against the official institutions of democratic citizenship. In contrast to the political constitutionalist stress on the patient and reciprocal negotiation of rights within formal electoral processes, this paper locates the political nature of rights in their conflictual logic as ‘claims’ in multiple spheres that function to mobilise oppositional support against powerful adversaries and challenge dominant understandings. An activist citizenship of rights is frequently necessary, it argues, given the structural barriers of power and inequality that distort legislative decision-making and lead to the denial of fundamental moral entitlements to less powerful groups. The paper provides an illustration of activist citizenship taken from a contemporary squatting movement centred around the right to housing, Take Back the Land. In exercising the moral right to housing, for which they demand political recognition, through the occupation of vacant buildings, the practices of Take Back the Land reflect the conflictual dimension of rights as claims in keeping with their historical role in empowering subordinate groups to challenge unjust relations of power and inequality.

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • Politics and International Studies

Published in

European Journal of Political Theory

Volume

17

Issue

1

Pages

23 - 43

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© The authors

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal European Journal of Political Theory and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/1474885115578052. Users who receive access to an article through a repository are reminded that the article is protected by copyright and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Users may also download and save a local copy of an article accessed in an institutional repository for the user's personal reference.

Publication date

2015-03-25

Copyright date

2018

ISSN

1474-8851

eISSN

1741-2730

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Guy Aitchison. Deposit date: 27 July 2021

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