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Reconstructing human rights: a pragmatic and pluralist inquiry in global ethics

Hoover, Joseph (2011) Reconstructing human rights: a pragmatic and pluralist inquiry in global ethics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This work sets out to critically reconstruct human rights as both an ethical ideal and a political practice. I critique conventional moral justifications of human rights and the related role they play in legitimating political authority, arguing that the pluralism and political content of human rights cannot be eliminated. I reconstruct the relationship between ethics and politics through an engagement with pragmatist and pluralist moral theory, which I then develop into a democratising account of human rights by incorporating work on agonistic democracy. The resulting view of human rights is situated and agonistic, seeing the act of claiming human rights as a political act that makes demands on the social order in the name of a particular ethical ideal. Rather than seeing the political act of claiming rights as undermining human rights as universal moral principles, it becomes essential to global ethics as such. The international political aspect of rights is then examined by looking to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in historical context, and contrasting human rights practice as expressed in popular social movements with conventional state-centric and legalist accounts. In the end the defence of human rights that is offered aims to preserve the transformative power of human rights claims, their democratising content, while undermining their totalising tendency, in which a singular conception of humanity provides certain moral principles to legitimate political authority.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Joseph Hoover
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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