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Human Rights and the Political,9780415548649
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Human Rights and the Political



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Routledge Caven
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Human Rights and the Political asks how we should conceptualize the politics of human rights. More specifically, it examines how radical theory has sought to appropriate human rights for an emancipatory politics following the apparent demise of socialism as a viable political project. Orthodox Marxism viewed human rights as irremediably ideological, representing a formal political equality that dissimulated the substantive social inequality of class society. However, the shock of Stalinism and the Soviet repression of Eastern Europe led Marxist intellectuals in France to contest the idea that human rights were a symptom of political alienation in a capitalist democracy. They developed the notion of the autonomy of the political in order to argue that socialism needed to recognize the importance of human rights as part and parcel of any vision of the good society. More recently, while radical theory has retained its suspicion of human rights for being ideological, it has also sought to understand human rights as a political discourse that affords certain opportunities for political action and resistance, even as it curtails others. Human rights can serve either to regulate or to emancipate. They can be part of the apparatus of domination but they can also be effectively mobilized to bring about social transformation. Taking Hannah Arendt's moving and much celebrated discussion of the 'right to have rights' in The Origins of Totalitarianism as a starting point, Human Rights and the Political provides a much needed contemporary assessment of the politics of human rights.

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