Foucault, Anti-Humanism and Human Rights

8 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2009

See all articles by Ben Golder

Ben Golder

Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales

Date Written: October 11, 2009


Responding to recent engagements with Foucault, and in part to the provocation of this conference (‘… antifoundational humanism …’), this paper argues that in his late work Foucault does not submit to the ‘moral superiority’ of humanism and introduce a liberal humanist subject. Rather, Foucault’s late investigations of subjectivity constitute a continuation and not a radical departure from his earlier positions on the subject. Such a reading helps us to assess Foucault’s late supposed ‘embrace’ of, or return to, human rights - which is here re-interpreted as a critical anti-humanist engagement with human rights, conducted in the name of an unfinished humanity. In this way, the paper engages not only with the way in which mainstream accounts of human rights tend to assimilate anti-foundational and post-structural challenges, but also with the quality of Foucault’s own political legacy and future in the age of human rights, 25 years on.

Keywords: human rights, anti-humanism

Suggested Citation

Golder, Ben, Foucault, Anti-Humanism and Human Rights (October 11, 2009). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2009-39, Available at SSRN:

Ben Golder (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
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