The first systematic analysis of the arguments made against human rights from the French Revolution to the present day. Through the writings of Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, Auguste Comte, Louis de Bonald, Joseph de Maistre, Karl Marx, Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt, the authors explore the divergences and convergences between these 'classical' arguments against human rights and the contemporary critiques made both in Anglo-American and French political philosophy. Human Rights on Trial is unique in its marriage of history of ideas with normative theory, and its integration of British/North American and continental debates on human rights. It offers a powerful rebuttal of the dominant belief in a sharp division between human rights today and the rights of man proclaimed at the end of the eighteenth century. It also offers a strong framework for a democratic defence of human rights.
Acknowledgements; Introduction: from the rights of man to human rights?; 1. Critiques of human rights in contemporary thought; 2. Human rights against inheritance: a conservative critique: Edmund Burke; 3. Human rights versus social utility: a progressivist critique: Jeremy Bentham and Auguste Comte; 4. Human rights against the rights of God: a theologico-political critique: Louise de Bonald and Joseph de Maistre; 5. The rights of man against human emancipation: a revolutionary critique: Karl Marx; 6. Human rights against politics: a nationalist critique: Carl Schmitt; 7. The 'right to have rights': revisiting Hannah Arendt; Conclusion; Index.