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Hamzić, Vanja (2013) The Negative Hypothesis: On Rights and Relations in Marxist Legal Thought. In: The New Marxist Writing in International Law, City University London. (Unpublished)

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This project reassesses various Marxist approaches to human rights, arguing for a return to the 'negative hypothesis' – one in which the liberal panacea of rights is eschewed in favour of various forms of syndicated action. It begins with Marx and Engels’ critique of the ‘rights of man’, and its reflections in the works of Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky and others, by focusing on the concepts of Recht and Rechtsverhältnisse (‘juridical relations’) as an integral part of the capitalist society. In the second part of this project, the author revisits some of the arguments pro et contra the negative hypothesis on human rights in Marxist and wider leftist thought, starting with the 1980s debate initiated by Steven Lukes, with his article titled ‘Can a Marxist Believe in Human Rights?’. The author attempts to show how many of Lukes' conclusions are still relevant today, and how his numerous critics, most notably Drucilla Cornell and Mihailo Marković, have paved the way for their subsequent separation from Marxist thinking altogether precisely in their ‘pro-­human rights’ theoretical contributions in the 1980s. What may have misled both of these scholars in the first place is precisely the humanist appeal of human rights, which masks its markedly technical, legal function in Produktionsverhältnisse (‘relations of production’). The third part of the project turns to Marxian and wider leftist dialogues on human rights in the 1990s and 2000s, focusing, on the one hand, on Costas Douzinas’ ‘pro-­rights’ theoretical contributions, and, on the other hand, on ‘anti­‐rights’ writings of Žižek, Rancière and others. It is argued that what is absent from these dialogues is consideration of the law, in Nicos Poulantzas’s words, as ‘the code of organized public violence’ (Poulantzas 2000: 77). In this context, human rights become a part and parcel of the continuous symbolic and, indeed, material bourgeois violence of the law, which necessitates, quite simply, non-­human‐rights­‐based forms of consciousness and resistance. In the final part of this project, the author seeks to illuminate some such collective practices, with the examples from Pakistan and Mexico, and concludes with summarising his arguments in favour of the negative hypothesis of human rights.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
Keywords: Marxism, Human Rights, International Law
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2013 08:42

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