Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 67 (4):655 - 678 (2005)

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The aim of this article is to focus on a central element in Gauchet s diagnosis of our age, namely the tension between human rights and democracy. Since the second half of the nineteen seventies, the era of departing from religion' (la sortie de la religion) has been completed, and we now find ourselves in a ‘society of individuals’ (la société des individus). This goes along with an eclipse of the state and of public reason: the waning concern for the common good. The reason for the existence of politics and the state now seem to lie exclusively in their utility for individuals or interest groups within society. The symptom par excellence of this development is the human rights discourse. Gauchet s claim in this respect is that the unilateral emphasis on human rights threatens democracy as it inevitably obfuscates the necessary counterpart of the individual and its private sphere, i. e. the state. As a result, the individual loses track of its own ground of existence. From this viewpoint, democracy in the name of one of its major pillars (the rights of the individual) seems to destroy another major pillar (the state as the guardian of those rights)
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