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The Meanings of Rights
The Philosophy and Social Theory of Human Rights


Conor Gearty, Costas Douzinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, John Milbank, Rowan Williams, Illan Rua Wall, Drucilla Cornell, Paul Gilroy, Walter D. Mignolo, Chantal Mouffe, Samuel Moyn, Pheng Cheah, Paul Patton, Bruce Robbins, Joseph R. Slaughter, Slavoj Žižek
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  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107679597

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About the Authors
  • Does the apparent victory, universality and ubiquity of the idea of rights indicate that such rights have transcended all conflicts of interests and moved beyond the presumption that it is the clash of ideas that drives culture? Or has the rhetorical triumph of rights not been replicated in reality? The contributors to this book answer these questions in the context of an increasing wealth gap between the metropolitan elites and the rest, a chasm in income and chances between the rich and the poor, and walls which divide the comfortable middle classes from the 'underclass'. Why do these inequalities persist in our supposed human rights-abiding societies? In seeking to address the foundations, genealogies, meaning and impact of rights, this book captures some of the energy, breadth, power and paradoxes that make deployment of the language of human rights such an essential but changeable part of so many of our contemporary discourses.

    • Captures and reflects the variegated nature of the meaning of human rights in contemporary scholarship and in public discussion, examining the philosophical foundations, ideological power and political effects of rights
    • Offers fresh reflections on human rights theory from a range of different perspectives and disciplines
    • A world renowned group of scholars, intellectuals, leaders and major authors in their field – with several addressing the question of rights for the first time
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'It would be difficult to imagine a more qualified and diverse team of intelligent critics to assess the meaning of human rights in today's 'post-humanist' world. The result of their symposium, however, is a complete redistribution of the game, where the fact of right emerges impossible to discard, precisely because it has become intrinsically problematic.' Étienne Balibar, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Paris-Nanterre, and author of Equaliberty and Violence and Civility

    'This splendid volume is a richly philosophical and relentlessly political intervention into contemporary debates about human rights. Each erudite essay illuminates or rethinks both terms constituting this essential if often misused modern instrument of justice and protection.' Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley

    'In this wide-ranging, thoughtful collection, distinguished scholars across several disciplines shed new light on the familiar topic of human rights by exploring the ambiguities and tensions that structure their social meanings and political implications. The book makes a distinctive and valuable contribution to the field; it should be widely read.' Nicola Lacey, FBA, School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy, London School of Economics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107679597
    • length: 368 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction Conor Gearty and Costas Douzinas
    Part I. Finding Foundations:
    1. On human rights: two simple remarks Jean-Luc Nancy (translated by Gilbert Leung)
    2. Human rights: the necessary quest for foundations Conor Gearty
    3. Against human rights: liberty in the western tradition John Milbank
    4. Religious faith and human rights Rowan Williams
    Part II. Law, Rights and Revolution:
    5. Philosophy and the right to resistance Costas Douzinas
    6. On a radical politics for human rights Illan Rua Wall
    7. Fanon today Drucilla Cornell
    8. Race and the value of the human Paul Gilroy
    Part III. Rights, Justice, Politics:
    9. From 'human rights' to 'life rights' Walter D. Mignolo
    10. Democracy, human rights and cosmopolitanism: an agonistic approach Chantal Mouffe
    11. Plural cosmopolitanisms and the origins of human rights Samuel Moyn
    Part IV. Rights and Power:
    12. Second-generation rights as biopolitical rights Pheng Cheah
    13. History, normativity, and rights Paul Patton
    14. 'All of us without exception': Sartre, Rancière, and the cause of the Other Bruce Robbins
    15. However incompletely, human Joseph R. Slaughter
    16. Welcome to the 'spiritual kingdom of animals' Slavoj Žižek.

  • Editors

    Costas Douzinas, Birkbeck, University of London
    Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. He is a leading scholar in the field of the critical study of human rights.

    Conor Gearty, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Conor Gearty is Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Director of the LSE's Institute of Public Affairs. He is a specialist in UK human rights law, as well as in terrorism law and civil liberties.


    Conor Gearty, Costas Douzinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, John Milbank, Rowan Williams, Illan Rua Wall, Drucilla Cornell, Paul Gilroy, Walter D. Mignolo, Chantal Mouffe, Samuel Moyn, Pheng Cheah, Paul Patton, Bruce Robbins, Joseph R. Slaughter, Slavoj Žižek

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