Hearing the Voice of the People: Human Rights as if People Mattered

67 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 22 Feb 2010

See all articles by Brooke A. Ackerly

Brooke A. Ackerly

Vanderbilt University

Jose Miguel Cruz

Florida International University (FIU)

Date Written: 2009


When we study human rights empirically, what do we mean to study? The existence of institutions that enable the realization of rights or the enjoyment of those rights? The absence of flagrant violations of some of the basic individual rights or the sense that one’s rights will not be flagrantly violated? What theory of human rights should we use? Most positive theory of human rights - that is, empirical studies that seek to show the correlation between political institutions or economic conditions on human rights recognition, are based on the first kind of normative human rights theory, the one that defines rights outside of the struggle for them, This paper puts forward a methodology for the empirical study of human rights from the inside: do people enjoy their human rights? Using the Latin American Public Opinion Project democracy survey database, we propose a new fashion to measure human rights from the same people who struggle to advance them. In this paper, we will flesh out what might be meant by rights enjoyment and how we might study rights enjoyment empirically. We test whether our measurement of human rights enjoyment matches or not the traditional measures of human rights and discuss how this notion of rights enjoyment can advance our understanding of human rights.

Suggested Citation

Ackerly, Brooke A. and Cruz, Jose Miguel, Hearing the Voice of the People: Human Rights as if People Mattered (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451502

Brooke A. Ackerly (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Jose Miguel Cruz

Florida International University (FIU) ( email )

University Park
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199
United States

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