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Of Sweatshops And Human Subsistence: Habermas On Human Rights, David Ingram Jan 2009

Of Sweatshops And Human Subsistence: Habermas On Human Rights, David Ingram

Philosophy: Faculty Publications and Other Works

In this paper I argue that the discourse theoretic account of human rights defended by Jürgen Habermas contains a fruitful tension that is obscured by its dominant tendency to identify rights with legal claims. This weakness in Habermas’s account becomes manifest when we examine how sweatshops diminish the secure enjoyment of subsistence, which Habermas himself (in recognition of the UDHR) recognizes as a human right. Discourse theories of human rights are unique in tying the legitimacy of human rights to democratic deliberation and consensus. So construed, their specific meaning and force is the outcome of historical political struggle. However ...