Theorising Rights

Civil and political rights that now form the backbone of most Constitutions (including the Indian) were first conceived under the liberal framework of the French Revolution. This framework  continues to be the dominant mode of understanding human freedom. Nonetheless, there has been a continuing, two hundred-year dialectic between liberalism’s claims, and various critical theories such as communitarianism, Marxism, feminism and so on. This page attempts to bring together, in a necessarily sketchy way, some of the major scholarship in the issue.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article provides a useful point of departure.

(a) Liberal Rights

1. Ronald Dworkin, What Liberalism Isn’t

(b) The Marxist critique of liberal rights

1. Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question

2. G.A. Cohen, Freedom and Money

(c) Feminist critiques of liberalism

1. Catherine MacKinnon, The Liberal State

2. Carole Pateman, Feminism and the Marriage Contract

3. Nancy Fraser, Rethinking the Public Sphere

4. Susan Moller Okin, Gender, Justice and Gender (her more famous piece, Political Liberalism, Justice and Gender, is behind a JSTOR paywall)

(d) Communitarianism

(e) Deliberative/Dialogic Democracy (and critiques)

1. Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

2. Joshua Cohen, Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy

3. Melissa Williams, The Uneasy Alliance of Group Representation and Deliberative Democracy

(f) Multiculturalism (and critiques)

1. Charles Taylor, The Politics of Recognition

2. Will Kymlicka, Democracy and Multiculturalism

3. Brian Barry, Liberalism and Multiculturalism

4. Nancy Fraser, Rethinking Recognition

5. Iris Marion Young, Polity and Group Difference

6. Susan Muller Okin, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

7. Doriane Coleman, Individualizing Justice Through Multiculturalism

8. Ayelet Schachar, The Puzzle of Interlocking Power Hierarchies

(h) Secularism/Freedom of Religion

1. T.M. Scanlon, The Difficulty of Tolerance (whole book; the relevant essay is at p. 187)

2. Marc Galanter, Secularism East and West

3. Marc Galanter, Hinduism, Secularism and the Indian Judiciary

4. T.N. Madan, Secularism in its Place (link to Google Doc; requires permission to read)

5. Partha Chatterjee, Secularism and Tolerance

6. Rajeev Bhargava, What is Secularism For?

(i) Race/Colonialism

1. W.E.B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk

2. Charles Mills, Revisionist Ontologies in Blackness Visible

3. Thomas McCarthy, Liberal Imperialism and the Dilemma of Development

(j) Miscellaneous

1. Judith Butler, Precarious Life (essays on constitutional rights, national security and emergency powers)

2. Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism 


2 thoughts on “Theorising Rights

  1. The data base is very good. I would love if some texts on dissability rights jurisprudence are also posted.

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