Human Rights, Freedom, and Political Authority

Political Theory 40 (5):573-601 (2012)
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Abstract
In this article, I sketch a Kant-inspired liberal account of human rights: the freedom-centred view. This account conceptualizes human rights as entitlements that any political authority—any state in the first instance—must secure to qualify as a guarantor of its subjects' innate right to freedom. On this picture, when a state (or state-like institution) protects human rights, it reasonably qualifies as a moral agent to be treated with respect. By contrast, when a state (or state-like institution) fails to protect human rights, it loses its moral status and becomes liable to both internal and external interference. I argue that this account not only steers a middle course between so-called natural-law and political approaches to human rights but also satisfies three important theoretical desiderata— explanatory power, functional specificity, and critical capacity
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