Long-term urgent interests and human rights practice: a challenge to the political conception

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Abstract

To the political conception, human rights constitute a normative global practice for the protection of individual emergent interests without depending necessarily on moral grounds. The practice expresses a form of ‘presentism’–it protects urgent interests by applying standards whose normative force derives from the fact that they are currently recognized as such. There is little room here for the distant future. To counter long-term problems, either (i) the idea of human rights needs to be grounded in something more than just practice, or (ii) distant future problems should not be regarded in terms of human rights, or (iii) there must be a way to understand the global human rights enterprise as encompassing the distant future. This paper makes a case for (iii). The argument begins by claiming that the distinction between the moral and the political conception still matters insofar as the latter provides specific heuristic instruments for understanding the practice. The following sections develop this analysis by confronting the political conception with its inadequacy to solve long-term problems. The final section proposes a solution to this puzzle by reinterpreting the notion of ‘urgency’, particularly by examining the potential of the right to political participation applied to children. This right embedded in the practice ultimately proves to be a particular form of right related to the distant future. In the end, it should be clear that the practice can be considered non-presentist even if the idea of the human rights of future persons in untenable.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Review Of International Social And Political Philosophy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • distant future
  • human rights
  • Longtermism
  • political conception
  • urgency

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