A Pluralist Approach to the Practice of Human Rights
36 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2014 Last revised: 5 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 4, 2014
How should we go about interpreting an international practice, such as human rights? In recent years, the so-called ‘practice turn’ has garnered much interest in International Relations and political philosophy. In this paper, I suggest a pluralist approach to the practice of human rights. Where existing methods for locating practices tend to presuppose that a practice must have a stable defining idea or purpose, or privilege one interpretive element – foundational texts, ultimate values, or the motives of practitioners – in the reconstruction of the practice, the pluralist approach grants that any such inquiry must negotiate between all three types of elements. Drawing on prominent contributions to the methodology of studying human rights practice and illuminating examples from the recent historiography and philosophy of human rights, I shall argue that this ‘mixed methods’ approach fits especially well with how we interpret the practice of human rights.
Keywords: human rights, practice turn, practice-dependence, methodology, pluralism
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