Confronting Myths and Misunderstandings
Chapter 5: Democracy and human rights
INTRODUCTION The previous chapter examined the role of the nation-state in the realm of human rights. Against a view which represents the state as primarily incompatible with defending human rights, I argued for the need to engage with the state in an attempt to direct resources towards protecting, rather than ignoring or even violating, human rights. As it stands, this request may seem unduly vague or optimistic to some. What is clearly further required is a more detailed account of a state model which is capable of realising and supporting human rights principles and aspirations. This chapter aims to provide just such an account. In keeping with the orientation of the rest of this book, I aim to provide an account capable of realising and supporting human rights principles and aspirations by critically engaging with what appears as a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between the state and human rights. A question typically posed in human rights circles is which kind of state is most compatible with the demands of human rights. The unanimous answer is a democratic state, of course. Democracy and human rights have come to be seen as practically synonymous and identical. In actual fact, they are not. Or, rather, one must say that the relationship between the two is somewhat more complex than the standard answer would suggest. A clear and precise formulation of one’s fundamental concepts is of utmost importance in providing a credible and defensible argument in support of the necessity of democracy for...
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