10 the Universal Concept of Human Rights as a Regulative Principle: Freedom versus Paternalism

By Demenchonok, Edward | The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, January 2009 | Go to article overview

10 the Universal Concept of Human Rights as a Regulative Principle: Freedom versus Paternalism


Demenchonok, Edward, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology


I

Introduction

IN THE BROAD SPECTRUM of the current debates among philosophers, political scientists, and politicians regarding the politics of human rights there are two contrasting approaches. One is represented by the neoconservative and neoliberal concepts, which rely mainly on the "hard power" of force, and justify forcibly "spreading democracy" (including through the unilateral intervention of a superpower) in the name of human rights protection, thus challenging international law. The other approach consists of focusing on the root cause of the problem, emphasizing the "soft power" of diplomacy and cooperation, and strengthening international human rights law and cosmopolitan order. It is represented by the theorists of "discourse ethics," Karl-Otto Apel and Jurgen Habermas, as well as the adherents of "cosmopolitan democracy," such as David Held, Martha Nussbaum, James Bohman, Patrick Hayden, and Jean L. Cohen.

The idea of the democratic West targeting the nondemocratic countries in spreading the "zone of liberal peace" raises concerns among many philosophers. Is the use of force the best means for the solution to the problem of protection and promotion of human rights? Or, conversely, does abstaining from the use of force mean ignoring the human rights violations in our own and other countries? If neither of these views is correct, is it possible to find an alternative approach, which would combine both goals of peace and human rights protection, using only morally acceptable means for these ends? Is it possible to maintain the universalistic principle of sovereign equality alongside human rights principles? How can we combine the values of autonomous political community and human rights?

The conceptual flaw of forcibly "spreading democracy" is the assumption that a democratic state spreads its own sociopolitical system as an alleged universal "model" for and on behalf of the international community. This assumption seems to equate the universal "principles of law" with the legislative autonomy of a democratic state. But is the legislative role of a democracy in the constitution of positive law (by the sovereignty of a people) enough to ground universally valid law, or the validity claim of "human rights" as international law? These interpretations deny the existence of a universal criteria for the evaluation and possible criticism of the democratic states themselves (thus attributing to them self-sufficient infallibility). Moreover, this questions whether there are legitimate grounds for the critical evaluation of any state, including a democratic one, "from the outside," from the perspective of universal law, such as human rights.

In this essay I argue that the universal concept of human rights gives us a regulative principle for a possible critique of any state, including a democratic one. It could serve as a normative yardstick for judgment regarding every actual democratic state. Moreover, the philosophical justification of the universal regulative principle for evaluating these states is vital for progressive political change as well as for the politics of human rights.

I shall analyze the two above-mentioned approaches to the politics of human rights. First, I will critically review the ideas of forcibly "spreading democracy" and its political implementation. I will then examine Kant's concept of human rights as freedom and its ongoing relevance. In the final part of the essay, I will review the development of Kant's ideas by the theorists of "discourse ethics" and of "cosmopolitan democracy." My analysis will confirm that the solution to the problems of securing peace and protecting human rights can be achieved only by peaceful means, based on the rule of law. Its global realization requires strengthened international law and institutions such as a reformed United Nations. The contemporary period is viewed as a transitional phase from an international to a cosmopolitan order. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

10 the Universal Concept of Human Rights as a Regulative Principle: Freedom versus Paternalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.