The Co-Originality of Human Rights and Democracy in an International Order
International Theory 7:1, 2015, 96–124. doi: 10.1017/S1752971914000426
Posted: 6 Jun 2013 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015
Date Written: June 5, 2013
This paper analyses Jürgen Habermas’s claim that democracy and human rights are co-original and its implications for his international theory. Reconstructing Habermas’s argument as it has developed over two decades, I analyse how it might address three problems. First, since the co-originality thesis implies that the precise content of individual rights must be articulated through actual deliberative procedures, it will be hard to justify such procedures unless we assume a principle of legitimacy demanding respect for persons as free and equal. Second, insisting on this view leads to a vicious regress, because everything seems to be up for grabs in political deliberation – even the conditions constitutive of those procedures. Third, if we insist that substantive rights must be articulated by an actual, historical legislator, it will be difficult to sustain a theory of human rights as universal and extending beyond the self-regulating processes of a particular constitutional project. Analysing how Habermas’s cosmopolitan model of global governance fails to satisfy the co-originality claim, I conclude by exploring whether Benhabib’s notion of ‘democratic iterations’ provide an alternative route for maintaining the co-originality claim within an international order.
Keywords: Benhabib, co-originality, democracy, Habermas, human rights
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation