Critiques of Human Rights, by Malcolm Langford.


Malcolm Langford, Co-Director of Centre on Law and Social Transformation, has, written the article “Critiques of Human Rights” (Annual Review of Law and Social Science).

Social science–inflected critiques of human rights are hardly new.1 A critical and empirical literature on human rights law, discourses, and movements was already present in the late 1990s (Baxi 1998Hafner Burton & Ron 2007Kennedy 2001Rajagopal 2007). What is striking, though, is the volume of contemporary critique and the apocalyptic predictions. This juncture provides a timely justification for charting and reflecting on these criticisms—particularly those that emanate from critical theory and realism rather than liberalism and utilitarianism.

After a brief overview of the rise of human rights (especially its legal dimension), the article focuses on three persistent empirically tinged critiques: the absence of sociological legitimacy, lack of effectiveness, and distributive inequality. Philosophical and legal critiques of human rights have their own histories and debates but are largely not considered.2

For the article, Click here.