Responsibility and Rights

22 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2017

See all articles by Sergio Dellavalle

Sergio Dellavalle

University of Turin - Faculty of Law; Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law; Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders

Date Written: July 11, 2017


A new era of responsibility seems poised to overshadow the human rights discourse in international law. To be justified, however, introducing the perspective of responsibility must result in an added value if compared to the former predominant approach. In fact, however, some justifications are inconsistent and the most radical interpretations jeopardize the very core of the modern theory of social and legal order, namely the centrality of the individual. On the other hand, the incorporation of responsibility into the discourse on rights may help to overcome some of its most evident shortcomings. Nonetheless, despite some positive outcomes which the new attention on responsibility may bring about, the concept is flawed by at least two major deficits. First, the reference to responsibility tends to presuppose the possibility of taking the position of a privileged observer. This implicitly rejects the idea that the moral and legal community is essentially constituted by human individuals who freely recognize each other as equal members and rightful holders of entitlements. The second deficit is instead related to the intrinsically particularistic character of responsibility, which makes it rather difficult to apply to the field of international law and relations. An analysis shows that we are confronted with a conflict: while responsibility can, in fact, be assumed to bring an added value, the costs for this are exceedingly high, since they amount to no less than the abandonment of the core concept of modern moral and political philosophy. By recurring to the communicative paradigm of rationality and social order, a possible solution is outlined according to which responsibility is re-interpreted in the sense of a time-, space-, composition- and content-related expansion of mutual recognition.

Keywords: autonomy, communication community, corporate social responsibility, discourse theory, duties, obligations, holism, individualism, paradigms of order, responsibility, responsibility to protect, human rights

Suggested Citation

Dellavalle, Sergio, Responsibility and Rights (July 11, 2017). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2017-14, Available at SSRN: or

Sergio Dellavalle (Contact Author)

University of Turin - Faculty of Law ( email )


Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120

Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders


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