On the Cogency of Human Rights

Jurisprudence 2 (1):17-36 (2011)
Abstract
This article queries the cogency of human rights reasoning in the context of global justice debates, focusing on Charles Beitz's practice-based approach. By 'cogency' is meant the adequacy of human rights theorising to its intended context of application. Negatively, the author argues that Beitz's characterisation of human rights reasoning as a 'global discursive practice' lacks cogency when considered in the context of the post-colonial state system; she focuses on African decolonisation. Positively, she suggests that Beitz's gloss on international human rights as an 'appurtenance' to the traditional state system offers a more promising starting point for global normative theorising, drawing attention to the requirement of sovereign competence as a necessary condition of possible human rights fulfilment. However, a concern with strengthening the sovereign competence of weak states should lead us to consider neglected public goods theorising in favour of an over-emphasis on individual human rights
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