Participation: The right of rights

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 98 (3):307–337 (1998)
Abstract
This paper examines the role of political participation in a theory of rights. If political participation is a right, how does it stand in relation to other rights about which the participants may be making political decisions? Suppose a majority of citizens vote in favour of some limit on (say) the free exercise of religion. If their decision is allowed to stand, does that mean that we are giving more weight to the right to participate than to the right to religious freedom? In this paper, I argue that talk of conflict (and relative weightings) of rights is inappropriate in a case like this. I argue that the special role of participation in a theory of rights is not a matter of its being given moral priority over other rights. Instead it's a matter of this being a right whose exercise seems peculiarly appropriate, from a rights-based point of view, in situations where reasonable right-bearers disagree about what (other) rights they have
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