Constituting Human Rights: Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States

By Mervyn Frost | Go to book overview

3

Foundational practices

The reader might be prepared to go along with my argument to this point (that rights are a component of the two global practices in contemporary world politics which I have been discussing) and yet still wish to maintain that human rights are not all that important in that, although rights are an internal component of the practices in question, these practices themselves are not, all things considered, ethically very important for us (or alternatively that they are only important for some of us, a minority). In order to counter this suggestion I shall now make the case that these two practices are exceptional ones in that, for those of us who are participants in them, they are fundamentally constitutive of us as free individuals. There are two steps here. First, I shall show that we are constituted as rights holders within a specific kind of practice - instances of the type which Terry Nardin called ‘authoritative practices’ which are to be clearly distinguished from ‘enterprise associations’. Second, I shall show that the authoritative practices I am discussing are of a special kind; they fall into that class of authoritative practice which have as a defining feature that they are foundational. It is the crucial role of rights within these that I wish to highlight.


Purposive associations and authoritative practices

Purposive associations (also known as enterprise associations) may be differentiated from authoritative practices (sometimes referred to as practical associations). In making this distinction I am building on a distinction drawn by Michael Oakeshott and subsequently taken up and developed for use in International Relations by Terry Nardin. 1 In what follows, I accept without amendment their portrayal of purposive association, but my understanding of authoritative practice is distinctly different from Oakeshott’s original account and Nardin’s subsequent elaboration of it.

Enterprises (or purposive associations) are associations in which people get together in order to pursue a common goal. For example, people might join Greenpeace with the specific aim of preventing the French government carrying out nuclear tests in the Pacific. Greenpeace, no doubt, has a complicated internal organizational structure which specifies who may become a member, how office bearers are elected, which committees are responsible for what

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Constituting Human Rights: Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Individual Rights in World Politics 17
  • 3 - Foundational Practices 40
  • 4 - Individual Rights in Conflict? 48
  • 5 - Civil Society 67
  • 6 - Rights in the System of Democratic and Democratizing States 97
  • 7 - Civilians and Citizens 128
  • Notes 139
  • Index 156
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