A talk by Professor Attracta Ingram
Friday 27 November 2015 at 2.30 pm in Room 333, Aras Moyola, National University of Ireland Galway.
Organised by the Power, Conflict and Ideology Cluster in the School of Political Science & Sociology
Human rights are increasingly used to justify a variety of Western interventions in the affairs of other nations, sometimes, but not always, acting with an UN mandate. This development became most evident in the military interventions in Somalia, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia. Less dramatically, measures such as sanctions and conditions on aid have long been used against the more egregious human rights-abusing regimes. At an everyday political level Western politicians are commonly expected to raise human rights issues on state occasions and trade missions with countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Burma, and many others. As reflected in the world of ideas, this development of human rights practice is increasingly used as a driver for new theoretical work on human rights. Recent contributions on the role or function of human rights are contesting the relevance of traditional accounts of their nature and basis. Human rights ‘without foundations’ are now defended as a form of political theory that claims to fit the current practice of human rights. This approach aims to discard the anterior natural or moral rights idea that undergirds traditional accounts in favor of a view of rights as setting the limits of state sovereignty.
In this talk I will explain the rise of the anti-foundational approach and ask if and how it be used to justify not merely criticism but intervention by some nations in the internal affairs of others. One suggestion appeals to an idea of the law of peoples understood as a universal standard to which different peoples can be held without threatening their autonomy. But the grand list of 30 articles of the UNDHR is reduced to those rights that we are prepared to defend, if necessary with armed intervention. Can this be right?
Attracta Ingram is Emeritus Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations, UCD, Dublin. She has served as senior vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy (2010-2013). She is a founder member and former Vice President of the European Inter University Centre for Human Rights and Democratization and moderator of the Venice Academy annual human rights research programme.
Her research interests covers European political theory from the 17th century onwards, and current international political theory, the philosophy of human rights, and liberalism.
In her work she defends and applies a Kantian constructivist moral and political theory, indebted to John Rawls, focusing on the connections between autonomy, rights, and consent in the institutional arrangements of a fair society.
She is author of numerous books and articles, including, A Political Theory of Rights, Oxford, 1995; and “Constitutional Patriotism”, Philosophy and Social Criticism 1996, 22(6): 1-18.