David McGrogan
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Introduction
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The introduction describes a paradox which is at the heart of the human rights movement, which is Trilling’s observation that attempts to improve conditions for others will frequently result in their coercion. It lays out the central argument of the book, which is that despite an apparent rhetorical commitment to individual empowerment and a preoccupation with rights’ supposed individualism among critics and advocates alike, rights in their modern form are better understood as a set of declaratory justifications for requiring States and other power actors to improve moral and material conditions for populations and sub-groups within them. This means that rights are hardly to be characterised as being associated with neoliberalism; they are better understood as having a structural bias towards a ‘power of care’ which attempts to specify the conditions of a good life and to deploy political and economic power in order to achieve them. The result is a managerial system which pays little if any attention to the individual and which frequently acts in opposition to individual agency.

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Critical theory and human rights

From compassion to coercion

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