Human rights, international human rights, and sovereign political authority: a draft model for understanding contemporary human rights

Ethics & Global Politics. 2014;7(0):143-162 DOI 10.3402/egp.v7.25522


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Journal Title: Ethics & Global Politics

ISSN: 1654-4951 (Print); 1654-6369 (Online)

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group

LCC Subject Category: Political science: Political science (General) | Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Ethics

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Julio César Montero ( Philosophy Department, Buenos Aires University, Buenos Aires, Argentina)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 22 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Over the past few years, two main approaches have been suggested for analyzing human rights: the natural rights model and the political approach. This essay argues that neither of these accounts offers an accurate understanding of contemporary human rights and introduces an alternative model to think about them that combines elements of both views: the two-tier model. The first layer of the model reconstructs the concept of human rights as a moral category. This moral category articulates conditions that any agent wielding sovereign political authority must fulfill in order to treat human beings with the respect and concern they deserve, and postulates five abstract rights that may lead to alternative lists of concrete human rights in different social and historical settings. In contrast, the second layer of the two-tier model aims to illuminate the practice of international human rights. Although, upon this view, international human rights are grounded on the notion depicted by the first layer of the model, they constitute a historical practice that cannot be completely reduced to any prior idea. As a result of this, current human rights practice may include elements that were not already present in the concept of human rights. Thus, human rights turn out to be at the same time natural and political, conceptual and historical, moral and positive, domestic and global.