Sociology of Human Rights Spring Term 2010 Module outline week 2: Marx’s critique of rights and law

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Sociology of Human Rights

Spring Term 2010

Module outline

WEEK 2: Marx’s critique of rights and law

Marx is usually understood as a critic of rights, seeing it as an ideology that both organises and obscures class inequalities. But what exactly does it mean to say that Marx was a critic of rights? In this lecture we shall explore further the equivocations of Marx’s critique of bourgeois rights and the place of rights in Marx’s own conception of emancipation.

Core reading

‐ Marx, Karl <1843> ‘On the Jewish Question’ in Lucio Colletti (ed.) Marx’s Early Writings, Penguin.

‐ Fine, Bob (2002) Democracy and the Rule of Law Blackburn Press, ch.2 ‘Marx’s critique of classical jurisprudence’ pp. 66‐85 and ch.4 ‘Law, state and capital’ pp. 95‐121

Background reading

- Jay Bernstein, `Right, revolution and community', in Peter Osborne (ed.), Socialism and the Limits of Liberalism, Verso, 1991.

- Hugh Collins: Marxism and Law, Oxford, 1982.

- Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Monthly Review, Vol 1.

- Bruno Bauer, `The Jewish Problem' in LS Stepelevich (ed.), The Young Hegelians: An Anthology, CUP, 1983.

- Ernst Bloch, ` Man and citizen according to Marx' in E Fromm (ed.), Socialist Humanism, Allen Lane, 1967, p. 203.

‐ Fine, Robert Political Investigations: Hegel, Marx, Arendt, Routledge, ch5 ‘Right and value: the unity of Hegel and Marx’

‐ Fine, Robert (2009) ‘Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’ in Andrew Chitty and Martin McIvor Karl Marx and Contemporary Philosophy, Palgrave, pp. 105‐120.

‐ Traverso, Enzo (1994) The Marxists and the Jewish Question: History of a Debate 18431943, Humanity Books, ch1 ‘Marx and Engels’

‐ Julius Carlebach (1978) Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Judaism, Littman Library of Jewish Civilisation, ch.7 ‘The radical challenge to Jews’ and ch8 ‘The Marxian response’, pp.125‐186


1. In what sense was Marx a critic of the rights of man?

2. How did Marx distinguish between the `rights of man' and the `rights of citizen'?

3. What conclusions did Marx draw about rights in general from his defence of the rights of Jews?

Week 3: Marxisms and human rights

Marx’s legacy in twentieth century ‘Marxism’ has been split between revolutionaries who emphasise his negative critique of rights and democrats who emphasise the centrality of rights to Marx’s own thinking. We shall illustrate this division through a discussion of the Bolshevik legal theorist, Evgeni Pashukanis, and the New Left social historian, Edward Thompson. In thinking again about the Marxist legacy, I shall attempt to develop the notion that rights in general and human rights in particular should be understood as contradictory social forms of capitalist society that both enable domination and provide a resource for struggles from below.

Core reading:

- Pashukanis, Evgeni: Law and Marxism, Pluto, 1983, ch. 4 `Commodity and Subject'.

‐ Thompson, Edward (1976) Whigs and Hunters: The Origins of the Black Act Penguin,

conclusion `the rule of law'

‐ Fine, Bob (2002) Democracy and the Rule of Law , Blackburn Press, ch.7 ‘20th century theories’

pp. 155‐189

Background reading

Chris Arthur, `Introduction' to Pashukanis, ibid.

Geoff Kay: `Right and force: A Marxist critique of contract and the state', in G Reuten and M Williams: Value, Social Form and the State, Macmillan, 1988.

R Warrington: `Pashukanis and the commodity form theory', International J of the Sociology of Law, 9 1 1981.

Alan Norrie: `Pashukanis and the Commodity Form Theory', International J of the Sociology of Law, 10 1982

Pete Binns: `Law and Marxism', Capital and Class, 10.

R Sharlet: `Pashukanis and the withering away of law in the USSR', in S Fitzpatrick (ed.): Cultural Revolution in Russia 1928-31.

E P Thompson, Writing By Candlelight, `The state of the nation', pp. 189-223.

Robert Fine, `Muggletonian Marxism and the Rule of Law: The Perplexities of Edward Thompson', Journal of Law and Society, 21, 2, June 1994, pp. 193-213.


1. What contribution does Pashukanis’ ‘commodity form’ theory of the legal subject make to understanding human rights?

2. Was Edward Thompson justified in characterising the `rule of law' as an `unqualified human good'?

3. Compare and contrast the different interpretations of Marxism offered by Pashukanis and Thompson in relation to our understanding of human rights.

WEEK 4: The West and the rest: the dialectics of universality and difference

The universality of human rights has come under criticism by those who see it as an enforcement of western standards on other cultures. Universality is itself identified with domination. How far should human rights override cultural autonomy?

Core readings:

‐ Butler, Judith (2008) ‘Sexual politics, torture and secular time’ British Journal of Sociology, 59, 1 ,

‐ Kapur, Ratna (2005) Erotic Justice: Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism, Glasshouse Press, ch4 ‘The tragedy of victimisation rhetoric: resurrecting the ‘native ‘ subject in international / postcolonial feminist legal politics’

Background reading:

‐ Bhambra, Gurminder and Shilliam, Robbie (eds). Silencing Human Right s: Critical Engagement s with a Contested Project London: Palgrave, pp. 1‐60.

‐ Kapur, op.cit ch5 ‘The other side of universality: cross‐border movements and the transnational migrant subject’

‐ Ferrara, Alessandro The Force of the Example: Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment, Columbia University Press, ch6 ‘Exemplarity and human rights’

Week 5 Human rights and radical politics

The rule of law and human rights are undoubtedly products of the development of capitalist society but what place do they occupy in radical politics critical of capitalist society?

Core reading

- Neumann, Franz: `The change in the function of law in modern society', in The Democratic and Authoritarian State, pp. 23-68.

‐ Arendt, Hannah (1969) Crises of the Republic, ‘Thoughts on Politics and Revolution’, Harvest, pp.199‐233.

- Poulantzas, Nicos State, Power, Socialism, `Law and terror', Verso 2001

Background reading

- Morris, Lydia Asylum Welfare and the Cosmopolitan Ideal: A Sociology of Rights 2010, forthcoming

- Mandel, Michael The Charter of Rights and the Legalisation of Politics in Canada, Wall and Thompson, 1989, ch 5 `The class struggle goes to court' pp 184-217.

‐ Alexander, J.C. (2006) The Civil Sphere, Oxford University Press, sections on ‘civil repair’

‐ Stammers, Neil (2009) Human Rights and Social Movements Pluto Press

  • Fine, Robert and Millar, Robert Policing the Miners Strike, Cobden Press 1985 ‘Introduction: the law of the market and the rule of law’

- Smart, Carol (1989) Feminism and the Power of Law, Routledge, ch7 `The problem of rights'
- Williams, Pat (1992) `The pain of word bondage', in The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Harvard
Herman, Didi (1993) `Beyond the rights debate', Social and Legal Studies, 2

Week 6 Reading week

WEEK 7: Miserable comforters? International law, rights and power

International human rights law plays an increasingly large role in political argument. Why is this so and how should we analyse and assess this phenomenon?

Core readings:

‐ Anghie, Antony (2004) Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Ch6 ‘On making war on the terrorist: imperialism as self-defence’, pp. 273-309

‐ Fine, Robert ‘Political argument and the legitimacy of international law: A case of distorted modernisation?’ in Chris Thornhill and Samantha Ashenden (eds) Normative and Sociological Approaches to Legality and Legitimacy 2010

Background reading:

‐ Koskenniemi, Martti (2009) ‘Miserable Comforters: International Relations as New Natural Law’ European Journal of International Relations, 15(3): 395–422,

‐ Koskenniemi, Martti (2001) The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 18 70–1960. Hersch Lauterpacht Memorial Weeks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, .

‐ Krisch, Nico (2004). “Imperial International Law.” Hauser Global Law School Program, Global Law Working Paper 01.

‐ Sands, Philippe (2006) Lawless World: Making and Breaking Global Rules. Harmondsworth: Penguin

‐ Bowring, Bill (2008) The Degradation of the International Legal Order: The Rehabilitation of Law and the Possibility of Politics. London: Glasshouse.

‐ Miéville, China (2005) Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law. Leiden: Brill.

‐ Kumm, M (2004) ‘The Legitimacy of International Law: A Constitutionalist Framework of Analysis’ 15 European Journal of International Law pp. 907‐ 931

‐ Zolo, Danilo (2002) “A Cosmopolitan Philosophy of International Law? A Realist Approach” Ratio Juris 12, 4 pp. 429–44

WEEK 8: ‘Critical criticism’ and human rights: the joys of trashing

There is to my mind an overly critical approach to human rights within the contemporary Left and among contemporary critical theorists. What is the argument they advance and how justified is it?

Core reading:

‐ Zizek, Slavoj. 2005. “Against Human Rights.” New Left Review 34 (July–August).‐humanrights‐zizek

‐ Rancière, Jacques (2006) ‘Who is the subject of the rights of man?’

‐ Douzinas, Costas. 2007. Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism. London: Routledge‐Cavendish, pp. ??

Background reading:

‐ Zizek, Slavoj ‘The Obscenity of Human Rights: Violence as Symptom’,

‐ Balibar, Etienne. “Is a Philosophy of Human Civic Rights Possible?” South Atlantic Quarterly 103, nos. 2–3:311–22. 2004

‐ Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1998

‐ Douzinas, Costas (2000) The End of Human Rights: Critical legal thought at the end of the century, Oxford: Hart

- Santos, Boa de Sousa Law and Globalisation from Below: Toward a Cosmopolitan Legality, CUP, 2005

WEEK 9: Is there a crisis of human rights?

Enthusiasm for the development of human rights has given way to an increasing foreboding that this development is short-lived and giving way again to all manner of regressive political forces. The question we raise here is whether it makes sense to speak of a crisis of human rights and, if so, how we should analyse and respond to it. The German sociologist, Hauke Brunkhorst, argues that there is currently emerging a legitimacy crisis of human rights. We shall be taking this argument as the springboard for a discussion on human rights in relation to Israel. .

Core reading:

‐ Brunkhorst, Hauke “Cosmopolitanism and Democratic Freedom.” Paper presented at Onati Institute for Sociology of Law conference “Normative and Sociological Approaches to Legality and Legitimacy,” 24– 25 April, 2008

Background reading:

‐ Habibi, Don (2007). “Human Rights and Politicised Human Rights: A Utilitarian Critique.” Journal of Human Rights 6:3–35,

‐ Joan Cocks (2009) ‘Is the right of sovereignty a human right? The idea of sovereign freedom and the Jewish state’, in Gurminder Bhambra and Robbie Shilliam (eds) Silencing Human Rights: Critical Engagements with a Contested Project, Palgrave

‐ Arendt, Hannah (1979) The Origins of Totalitarianism Harcourt Brace ch. 1 ‘Antisemitism as an outrage to common sense’ pp. 3‐10 and ch. 2 ‘The equivocalities of emancipation’ pp. 11‐28; extracts in Peter Baehr (ed.) The Portable Hannah Arendt Penguin, 2000, pp. 75‐103.

‐ Bernstein, Richard Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question ch3 ‘Statelessness and the right to have rights’

WEEK 10 Open week

We can if you wish return to one or both of the thorny questions we addressed in the first term: that of humanitarian military intervention and what is now called the ‘responsibility to protect’ or that of prosecuting rulers and officials for the atrocities they commit against ordinary men and women. This fits in well with the last two sections of the first term. I shall put down reading lists for both here which could be especially useful for your assessed essays.

Humanitarian military intervention and the responsibility to protect

‐ Young, Iris Marion (2003) ‘Violence Against Power: Critical Thoughts on Military Intervention’ in D. K. Chatterjee and D. E. Scheid (eds.) Ethics and Foreign Intervention, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

‐ Smith, William (2007) 'Anticipating a Cosmopolitan Future: The Case of Humanitarian Military Intervention', International Politics, 44:1, http://0‐

‐ Ferrara, Alessandro The Force of the Example: Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment, Columbia University Press, ch7 ‘Enforcing human rights between Westphalia and cosmopolis’

‐ Zolo, Danilo (2002) Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global Order, London: Continuum.

‐ Wheeler, Nicholas. (2000) Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

‐ Roth, K. (2004) ‘War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention’, Human Rights Watch,

‐ Walzer, Michael (2000) Just and Unjust Wars New York: Basic Books.

‐ Krisch, Nico (2002) ‘Legality, Morality and the Dilemma of Humanitarian Interventions after Kosovo’, European Journal of International Law, 13, 1 pp.323‐335,

‐ Falk, Richard (1999) ‘Kosovo, World Order, and the Future of International Law’ American Journal of International Law, 93:4, pp. 847‐857,

‐ Brown, Chris (2003) ‘Selective Humanitarianism: In Defence of Inconsistency’, in D. K. Chatterjee and D. E. Scheid (eds.) Ethics and Foreign Intervention, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

‐ Booth, Ken (2001) ‘Ten Flaws of Just Wars’ in K. Booth (ed.) The Kosovo Tragedy: The Human Rights Dimension, London: Frank Cass.

‐ Archibugi, Daniele (2004) ‘Cosmopolitan Guidelines for Humanitarian Intervention’, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 29:1, pp.1‐22,

International criminal justice

‐ Nash, Kate (2007) ‘The Pinochet case: cosmopolitanism and human rights’ British Journal of Sociology, 58, 418‐435,

‐ Hirsh, David (2003) Law against Genocide: Cosmopolitan Trials, Glasshouse Press, ch4 ‘Peace, security and justice in the former Yugoslavia’ and ch5 ‘The trials of Blaskic and Tadic at the ICTY’

‐ Koskenniemi, Martti (2002) ‘Between impunity and show trials’, 6 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations, 1,

‐ Robertson, Geoffrey (2006) Crimes against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice Harmondsworth: Penguin

‐ Sands, Philippe ed. (2003) From Nuremberg to the Hague: the Future of International Criminal Justice Cambridge: CUP

‐ May, Larry (2005) Crimes against Humanity: a Normative Account, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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