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On Human Rights$
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James Griffin

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199238781

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199238781.001.0001

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Do Human Rights Require Democracy?

Do Human Rights Require Democracy?

(p.242) 14 Do Human Rights Require Democracy?
On Human Rights

James Griffin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the question of whether human rights require democracy. Human rights and democracy have grown up to meet quite different needs. Human rights grew up to protect what we see as constituting human dignity: the life, autonomy, and liberty of the individual. Democratic institutions grew up in our need for a decision procedure for groups — a procedure that is stable, manages transfer of power well, appropriate to a society whose members are more or less equal in power or worth, reconciles losers in social decisions to the basic structures of the society, and tends to promote the commonweal — that is, order, justice, security, and prosperity. Much more comes into democracy, both into the idea itself and into its major duties and functions, than can be got out of human rights. It is unsurprising that fairness should enter into what can count as a democracy, and also that the promotion of a large variety of social ends should enter into its major duties and functions. One cannot derive a requirement of fair political procedures from human rights alone, though one may be able to derive it from morality as a whole.

Keywords:   human rights, democracy, autonomy, liberty, democratic institutions

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