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Beck, Gunnar (2008) 'The Mythology of Human Rights.' Ratio Juris, 21 (3). pp. 312-347.

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Abstract

A special legal status is accorded to human rights within Western liberal democracies: They enjoy a priority over other human goods and are not subjected to the majoritarian principle. The underlying assumption—the idea that there are some human values that deserve special protection—implies the need for both a normative and a conceptual justification. This paper claims that neither can be provided. The normative justification is needed to support the priority of human rights over other human goods and to rank and balance conflicting human rights, but it can't be provided because of the fact of pervasive value pluralism, the fact that human values are many, incompatible and incommensurable. The conceptual justification is needed to avoid arbitrariness in the interpretation of human rights at the adjudication stage. Such a justification is impossible, however, as the concept of human rights, and the concepts used to justify them and to solve their conflicts are “essentially contested concepts.” The paper concludes that, provided that the interpretation of human rights presupposes value judgements and political choices, the special legal status accorded to human rights is not justified.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
ISSN: 09521917
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9337.2008.00393.x
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2015 10:21
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21623

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