After the Critique of Rights: For a Radical Democratic Theory and Practice of Human Rights

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The critique of human rights has proliferated in critical legal thinking over recent years, making it clear that we can no longer uncritically approach human rights in their liberal form. In this article I assert that after the critique of rights one way human rights may be productively re-engaged in radical politics is by drawing from the radical democratic tradition. Radical democratic thought provides plausible resources to rework the shortcomings of liberal human rights, and allows human rights to be brought within the purview of a wider political project adopting a critical approach to current relations of power. Building upon previous re-engagements with rights using radical democratic thought, I return to the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to explore how human rights may be thought as an antagonistic hegemonic activity within a critical relation to power, a concept which is fundamentally futural, and may emerge as one site for work towards radical and plural democracy. I also assert, via Judith Butler's model of cultural translation, that a radical democratic practice of human rights may be advanced which resonates with and builds upon already existing activism, thereby holding possibilities to persuade those who remain sceptical as to radical re-engagements with rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-288
Number of pages20
JournalLaw and Critique
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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