Critiquing Human Rights

Abstract: This essay reviews three recent books which each provide a different account of human rights and their critics. Jean-Yves Pranchère and Justine Lacroix’s Human Rights on Trial constructs a genealogy of critiques of human rights discourse from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Joe Hoover’s Reconstructing Human Rights proposes a critically redemptive approach to human rights, pushing human rights further leftward through the resources of pragmatism and agonistic theories of democracy. But it is ultimately Ratna Kapur’s Freedom in a Fishbowl that articulates the most profound, and radical, challenge to human rights by indicting its Eurocentric notions of freedom and challenging us to engage with non-European conceptions of freedom.

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