A Critique of the Universalisability of Critical Human Rights Theory: The Displacement of Immanuel Kant [Book Review]

Human Rights Review 14 (4):367-385 (2013)
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While the critically oriented writings of Immanuel Kant remain the key theoretical grounds from which universalists challenge reduction of international rights law and protection to the practical particularities of sovereign states, Kant’s theory can be read as also a crucial argument for a human rights regime ordered around sovereign states and citizens. Consequently, universalists may be tempted to push Kant’s thinking to greater critical examination of ‘the human’ and its properties. However, such a move to more theoretical rigour in critique only solidifies the subversive statism of Kant’s apparent universalism, as long as it remains embedded in his prior theory of critical philosophy that privileges a singular form of reason. Universalist theories of human rights can break with this contradiction only insofar as they also displace the right to philosophy from the subject and site of ‘civil’ man to a politics of theory where no such subject or site is guaranteed



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