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

By Mervyn Frost | Go to book overview

5

Civil society

The space for global politics

I have argued that I, myself, and many others worldwide have this in common: we are constituted as free persons through our participation in two authoritative practices which are global in their reach. These are civil society (the society of first generation rights holders) and the society of democratic and democratizing states. Sets of individual human rights are a central feature of both practices.

These practices are authoritative practices as distinct from purposive associations. Their defining feature is that through our participation in them we both constitute one another as having a certain kind of valued standing and we realize certain values amongst ourselves. This standing and these values are not to be had in any other way than through our participation in these two practices. For it is a defining feature of authoritative practices that participation in them can be understood as an end in itself, not as a means to some other externally defined end.

I argued in Chapter 4 that the two global practices in question are not merely authoritative practices, but they are, for those of us who participate in them, foundational too. Were we to be denied participation in them, we would consider ourselves to have been fundamentally ethically damaged. Thus we would consider ourselves to have been ethically harmed were we no longer accorded the status of rights holders in civil society. In like manner, it would be a major ethical setback to be denied the standing of citizen in the practice of democratic states. This would involve, amongst other things, not being granted the status of a person with moral standing enough to participate in the election and the holding to account of the governments under which we live. To be denied these things would be to reduce us to servitude of one kind or another - an ethically devastating outcome.

In this chapter I shall explore more fully the major features of the first of these ethically foundational authoritative practices, civil society. 1 Global civil society has many quite extraordinary features which are seldom noted. In particular, in what follows, I shall be drawing attention to the way in which global civil society can be understood as the framework which makes possible a certain form of civil politics at both the local and global levels. In this chapter I shall focus on the positive features of civil society. In the following chapter I shall discuss the

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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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