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

By Mervyn Frost | Go to book overview

6

Rights in the system of democratic and democratizing states

Constitutive theory sets out to show how we are constituted as ethical beings in a hierarchy of practices where each superior practice may be seen to have solved the shortcomings of the subordinate ones. 1 Constitutive theory does not claim that the subsequent practices are the result of conscious ethical problem-solving activity in the prior practices. It also does not claim that the subordinate practices had built into them a teleological logic which inevitably leads to the emergence of the superior practices. The claim made by constitutive theory is merely that with hindsight we can discern what contribution to our current ethical standing is made by the different practices within which we participate and how certain problems in the subordinate practices were solved in the superior ones. Constitutive theory is a practical example of philosophy painting its grey upon grey after the dusk has fallen and the owl of Minerva has flown.

In this book I am concerned to discuss the role rights play in two of the key practices in the hierarchy within which I and others are constituted as free people, and to examine the tensions between them. In Chapter 5 I discussed several of the remarkable features of global civil society, which is the first of these practices. In it we constitute one another as the holders of first generation individual rights. In that chapter I presented the major features of global civil society in a positive light. I shall turn shortly to a discussion of the ethical shortcomings of this practice as a lead into a more detailed discussion of the second practice - the society of democratic and democratizing states. This, too, is a practice within which rights play a central role, although the rights involved are a different set of rights to the basic rights constituted in civil society. Although the society of democratic and democratizing states must be understood as a single practice, I shall, for the purposes of exposition, first discuss the democratic state as a single entity and then discuss the system of democratic and democratizing states as a whole.


The democratic state as an ethical practice

As citizens in a democratic state we gain an ethical standing which builds upon and improves upon that which we achieve within civil society. A good way of highlighting what we gain within this practice is to consider what we would lack

-97-

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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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