Human Rights as Subjectivity: The Age of Rights and the Politics of Culture

Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 27, pp. 97-118, 1998

17 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2008 Last revised: 1 May 2014

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Abstract

This article seeks to open up the question of the foundation of human rights by reference not to their philosophical origins but their political function. I argue that attempts to ground human rights in objective fact (such as "human nature") or in pure reason (as "self-evident") are futile, but more importantly are unhelpful in the broader project of protecting those rights that are recognised as "universal". A more useful approach is to conceptualise human rights as a discourse in which the human being is constituted and reconstituted as the subject of rights. Allied with this theoretical analysis is the political project of establishing the conditions for meaningful conversation about human rights. More than any philosophical insight, this is the ultimate precondition for their recognition.

Keywords: human rights

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, Human Rights as Subjectivity: The Age of Rights and the Politics of Culture. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 27, pp. 97-118, 1998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1117242

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

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