Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seyla Benhabib on Human Right to Democracy

Professor Seyla Benhabib has posted a new paper on SSRN:

"Is There a Human Right to Democracy? Beyond Interventionism and Indifference" [pdf]

"There is wide-ranging disagreement in contemporary discourse about the justification as well as the content of human rights. On the one hand, the language of human rights has become the public vocabulary of a conflict-ridden world which is increasingly growing together. The spread of human rights, as well as their defense and institutionalization, are now seen as the uncontested language, though not the reality, of global politics. In this essay I wish to shift both the justification strategy and the derivation of the content of human rights away from minimalist concerns towards an understanding of human rights in terms of the “right to have rights” (Hannah Arendt). I will defend a discourse-theoretic justification strategy which seeks to synthesize the insights of discourse ethics with Hannah Arendt’s concept. I thereby hope to point the way toward a more robust defense of human rights within a global justice context. Whereas in Arendt’s work, “the right to have rights” is viewed principally as a political right and is narrowly defined as the “right to membership in a political community,” I will propose a non-state-centered conception of the “right to have rights,” understood as the claim of each human person to be recognized and to be protected as a legal personality by the world community."

The paper will be presented at the APSA Annual Meeting 2011 and it will appear as part of a forthcoming book, titled: "Dignity in Adversity. Human Rights in Troubled Times" (Polity Press, September 2011)

The paper was originally presented in 2007.

See also Joshua Cohen's paper "Is There a Human Right to Democracy" [pdf] (2006).

Seyla Benhabib is professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University.

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