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Towards a Political Philosophy of Human Rights: Pour une Philosophie Politique des Droits de L'Homme

Abstract : Is there a human right to be governed democratically? And what are the considerations that might ground such a right? These are the questions raised in Joshua Cohen’s 2006 work, “Is There a Human Right to Democracy?”—a paper over which I have agonized since I saw it in draft form, many years ago. I am still uncomfortable with its central claim, that while justice demands democratic government, the proper standard for human rights demands something less. But, as I hope to show, the reasons for that discomfort are occasioned less by the thought that democracy may not be a human right than by the very significant gaps in our understanding of rights that debates about the human rights status of democracy exemplify. I therefore start by situating Cohen’s paper within philosophical debates about the structure and justification of human rights. I then look at the debate about democracy and human rights that it has occasioned, and I explain why this debate is not easy to resolve. Finally, I point to difficult issues that arise for a philosophy of human rights if one accepts, as we probably should, that democratic government is not best thought of as a human right, at present. My hope is thereby to contribute to the political philosophy of human rights that, I assume, a commitment to democratic government requires, whether or not democracy is itself an object of human rights.
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Submitted on : Friday, October 22, 2021 - 10:25:57 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 11:44:03 AM

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Annabelle Lever. Towards a Political Philosophy of Human Rights: Pour une Philosophie Politique des Droits de L'Homme. Debra Satz; Annabelle Lever. Ideas that Matter, Oxford University Press, 2019, 9780190904951. ⟨hal-03397966⟩

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