Toward a political conception of human rights

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (4):371-390 (2009)
Abstract
Human rights have become a wider and more visible feature of our political discourse, yet many have also noted the great discrepancy between the human rights invoked in this discourse and traditional philosophical accounts that conceive of human rights as natural rights. This article explores an alternative approach in which human rights are conceived primarily as international norms aimed at securing the basic conditions of membership or inclusion in a political society. Central to this `political conception' of human rights is the idea of human rights as special (in contrast to general) rights that individuals possess in virtue of specific associative relations they stand in to one another. This view is explored and defended through a critical review of four recent political conceptions — Michael Ignatieff, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge and Joshua Cohen
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