Two paradoxes constitute the discourse of human rights. One concerns the relationship between “the human” and “the political”; the other invokes the opposition between the universalist moral character of human rights and the practical, particular context in which they become manifest. This chapter argues how and why these paradoxes will not go away – a good thing, too – over and against classical and contemporary writers who have argued for the priority of one or the other. After elucidating the powerful and enduring character of these paradoxes in history and political theory, I argue that human rights discourse only makes sense in terms of the arguably more primary discourses of democracy, political virtue, and justice if it is to avoid being a deceptive, rhetorical cover for dubious political practices.
Wallach, J.R. (2011), "Constitutive Paradoxes of Human Rights: An Interpretation in History and Political Theory", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Special Issue Human Rights: New Possibilities/New Problems (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 56), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-65. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1059-4337(2011)0000056005
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