IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

The Concept of Human Rights

Listed author(s):
  • Edward Demenchonok
Registered author(s):

    This essay examines the current debates regarding the politics of human rights. The universal concept of human rights is considered as a regulative principle for the possible critique of any state, including a democratic one. Moreover, the philosophical justification of the universal regulative principle for evaluating these states is vital for progressive political change and for the politics of human rights. At the heart of the analysis is Kant's concept of human rights as freedom. It is opposed to a more utilitarian interpretation of rights and political paternalism. Kant's philosophy helps us to better understand the meaning of the definition of human rights as inherent, sacred, and inalienable, as formulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Kant makes these meanings explicit, and he elaborates on the moral-philosophical explanations of humanitarian rights. His philosophy of law was developed in a process of a systematic criticism of political paternalism (which is the flip side of dependence). Kant developed his definition of individual freedom in opposition to authoritarian paternalism, utilitarian arbitrariness, and the "despotism of paternalistic benevolence." The categorical imperative is threefold: the imperatives of morality, right, and peace. Thus it could be interpreted as "the categorical imperative of peace." The analysis shows the ongoing relevance of Kant's ideas and their recent development by the theorists of "discourse ethics" and of "cosmopolitan democracy." It affirms that the solution to the problems of securing peace and protecting human rights can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on the international rule of law. Copyright © 2009 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc..

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 273-301

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:68:y:2009:i:1:p:273-301
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:68:y:2009:i:1:p:273-301. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing)

    or (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.