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The Politics of the Human


Part of The Seeley Lectures

  • Author: Anne Phillips, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107475830

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About the Authors
  • The human is a central reference point for human rights. But who or what is that human? And given its long history of exclusiveness, when so many of those now recognised as human were denied the name, how much confidence can we attach to the term? This book works towards a sense of the human that does without substantive accounts of 'humanity' while also avoiding their opposite – the contentless versions that deny important differences such as race, gender and sexuality. Drawing inspiration from Hannah Arendt's anti-foundationalism, Phillips rejects the idea of 'humanness' as grounded in essential characteristics we can be shown to share. She stresses instead the human as claim and commitment, as enactment and politics of equality. In doing so, she engages with a range of contemporary debates on human dignity, humanism, and post-humanism, and argues that none of these is necessary to a strong politics of the human.

    • Proposes a new framework for thinking of 'the human' as predominantly a political rather than descriptive claim
    • Rejects alternative foundationalism accounts to argue that equality is central to the definition of what it means to be human
    • Engages with political theory, feminist political theory, critical political theory, and debates on writings on human dignity, humanism, and post-humanism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Anne Phillips' book is a hugely engaging critique of both descriptive and abstract accounts of the human as a basis for contemporary politics.' J. M. Browne, University of Cambridge

    'This is a brilliant and incisive intervention into contemporary political conceptions of the value of the human. Phillips persuasively rebuts widely accepted arguments about grounding a substantive notion of the human in dignity, an essence, or on scientific evidence. The Politics of the Human does not deal in abstractions or evade the question of embodied power. Rather, it seeks to affirm equality in and through human difference. These innovative and engaging lectures show how the affirmation of difference is required if we are to see that equality is a political creation and achievement rather than something discovered through argument or reason.' Moira Gatens, University of Sydney

    'Anne Phillips writes in a humane and even-handed way about how to understand the human, now: as status or claim? Drawing on a wide range of authors, from Arendt to Habermas, Butler to Bennett, Phillips builds a compelling case for the human as claim. Whether readers agree with her or not, none will come away unimpressed by the warmth and clarity of her vision in these Seeley lectures.' Bonnie Honig, Brown University, Rhode Island

    'In her compelling and accessible account of the politics of the human as an enactment of our commitment to equality, Anne Phillips decisively liberates political theory from the futile search for the 'foundations' of human beings, and in doing so remaps the conceptual terrain of a number of key debates.' Nicola Lacey, London School of Economics and Political Science

    '… an insightful, engaging examination of various dimensions of 'the human' as related to contemporary politics. Phillips astutely lays out the important normative and legal work that categorizations of humanness perform - in the extension of rights or asylum, in creating justifications for humanitarian intervention, and so on. However, her primary task is to draw attention to some of the inadequacies in the way that contemporary understandings of the human have been defined and their political implications. In an impressively accessible and wide-ranging analysis, she resists defining the human substantively according to some description of shared, essential features, tracing the problems with such an understanding. At the same time, she resists a bland account of the human rooted in abstract notions that might paper over powerful markers of difference based on gender, race, religion, sexual identity, and the like. … Throughout, her analysis is provocative and richly detailed while managing to retain lucidity and striking clarity. … Recommended.' R. W. Glover, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107475830
    • length: 157 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 138 x 9 mm
    • weight: 0.2kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. The politics of the human
    2. Humans, with content and without
    3. On not justifying equality: Rorty and Arendt
    4. Dignity and equality
    5. Humanism and post-humanism

  • Author

    Anne Phillips, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Anne Phillips is Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science at London School of Economics and Political Science. Her first major work, The Enigma of Colonialism (1989), was based on analysis of colonial policy in British West Africa, but virtually all her subsequent teaching, research, and publications is in the field of political theory, and more specifically of feminist political theory. She has written about issues of equality and difference, democracy and representation, multiculturalism and gender, bodies and property, but with equality always the recurring theme. Publications include Engendering Democracy (1991), co-winner of the American Political Science Association's Award for Best Book on Women and Politics; The Politics of Presence (1995); Which Equalities Matter? (1999); Multiculturalism without Culture (2007); and Our Bodies, Whose Property? (2013). Her work has been translated into French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Turkish, Croatian, Slovenian, Chinese and Korean. Anne Phillips was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and of the UK Academy of Social Sciences in 2012, and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Aalborg and Bristol.

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