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Claiming Rights across Borders: International Human Rights and Democratic Sovereignty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2009

SEYLA BENHABIB
Affiliation:
Yale University
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Abstract

The status of international law and transnational legal agreements with respect to the sovereignty claims of liberal democracies has become a highly contentious theoretical and political issue. Although recent European discussions focus on global constitutionalism, there is increasing reticence on the part of many that prospects of a world constitution are neither desirable nor salutary. This article more closely considers criticisms of these legal transformations by distinguishing the nationalist from democratic sovereigntiste positions, and both, from diagnoses that see the universalization of human rights norms either as the Trojan horse of a global empire or as neocolonialist intentions to assert imperial control over the world. These critics ignore “the jurisgenerativity of law.” Although democratic sovereigntistes are wrong in minimizing how human rights norms improve democratic self-rule; global constitutionalists are also wrong in minimizing the extent to which cosmopolitan norms require local contextualization, interpretation, and vernacularization by self-governing peoples.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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