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Human rights and democracy: the case for decoupling

By Chun Lin


'Human rights' and 'democracy' as two related but also distinct concepts are frequently confused with each other in the discourse of practical politics. They tend to be seen as necessarily coexisting or otherwise both absent in a given polity, resulting in the notions' interchangeable usage in a taken-for-granted manner. The argument of this essay is a three-fold clarification. First, basic human rights have to be defined in terms of the right to life, thus minimal enough to be universally intelligible, acceptable and measurable. Second, as such human rights are generally independent of democracy, although the latter may serve the former along with other favourable social and institutional conditions. Third, the assertion of human rights legitimacy over democratic legitimacy entails some normative re-articulations of policy priorities. Overall, the obvious conceptual distinction needs to be remade for intellectual clarity as well as moral-political validity, which is immediately relevant in particular to developing and transitional societies

Topics: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology, JA Political science (General), JX International law
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1080/714003726
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:19110
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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