the right to have rights

Benhabib_cohrs_468wSeyla Benhabib at Eurozine:

In a well-known passage of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt wrote: “We become aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that means to live in a framework where one is judged by one's actions and opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerge who had lost and could not regain these rights because of the new global political situation […] The right that corresponds to this loss and that was never even mentioned among the human rights cannot be expressed in the categories of the eighteenth-century because they presume that rights spring immediately from the 'nature' of man […] the right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself. It is by no means certain whether this is possible.[9] The “right to have rights” has become the well-known phrase through which to capture the plight of the stateless, the refugee, the asylee and displaced persons – that is, the plight of those who have been cast out of the framework “where one is judged by one's actions and opinions.”

Throughout this discussion, Arendt polemicizes against the grounding of human rights upon any conception of human nature or history. For her, conceptions of human nature commit the mistake of treating humans as mere substance, as if they were things in nature. But following Augustine and Heidegger, for her humans are the ones for whom the question of being has become a question.

more here.

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