Response to ChantalMouffe
The question is not merely whether the idea of ‘human rights’ can accommodate
‘pluralism’, but whether, or to what extent, it should. ChantalMouffe claims that
there is at present a dominant conception of human rights which is closely tied up
with one conception of the legitimate polity, that of ‘liberal democracy’. The idea of
human rights needs revision to accommodate a wider range of legitimate polities.
There is no doubt that Mouffe is exploring a key problem for human
Can human rights accommodate pluralism?
There are many ways to approach the topic selected for this year’s Oxford
Amnesty Lectures. I have chosen to examine it from the following angle: Can human
rights accommodate pluralism? I am especially interested in two questions: (1) Do
human rights transcend cultural and religious differences? (2) What does the
answer to this question imply for our understanding of democracy in a global context? I will begin by examining the supposedly universal relevance
injecting a large dose of liberalism into their
outlook’ ( Barry, 1990 : 11). When faced with
Trump, Xi Jinping, Orban, Erdogan, Putin, Assad, Duterte, non-liberals all, how can the argument
for neutrality be successful? They see opponents not as legitimate competitors protected by a
set of institutional rules that limit the scope of conflict but as threats to be eliminated.
ChantalMouffe differentiates ‘the political’ from ‘politics’: the
political is the sphere of existential conflict over the nature of the state where the most
This book offers a new and critical perspective on the global reconciliation technology by highlighting its contingent and highly political character as an authoritative practice of post-conflict peacebuilding. After retracing the emergence of the reconciliation discourse from South Africa to the global level, the book demonstrates how implementing reconciliation in post-conflict societies is a highly political practice which entails potentially undesirable consequences for the post-conflict societies to which it is deployed. Inquiring into the example of Sierra Leone, the book shows how the reconciliation discourse brings about the marginalization and neutralization of political claims and identities of local populations by producing these societies as being composed of the ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ of past human rights violations which are first and foremost in need of reconciliation and healing.
this precarious post-Troubles moment: an era doubly defined by processes of post-
conflict resolution, and strategies of societal regeneration formed under the influence of neo-liberal ideology. Such socio-economic factors of post-Troubles reality
compel us, therefore, to map contexts for the contemporary art of Northern
Ireland in relation to what has been perceived, by ChantalMouffe and others, as
the ‘post-political’ condition of globalised liberal democracy.
An important proposition at the heart of this book is that the art of the
stages. First, I describe key intersections and disjunctures between ChantalMouffe’s agonism and John Dewey’s engaged pluralism. Having laid out the contours of these two models, I apply both to the analysis of an empirical case involving conflict within a New Orleans neighbourhood group, highlighting the unique insights into the negotiation of difference that a Deweyan lens provides. I conclude with a discussion of the benefits of integrating a Deweyan sensibility into social research practices and the process of knowledge production.
Agonistic pluralism versus
exclusively - on the writings of Ernesto Laclau and ChantalMouffe. These
authors provide an elaborate theory of structural change which describes how
existing discourses are destabilised and (re)constructed and how discourses
struggle for hegemony. Furthermore, they offer a concept of discourse which
helps understand how discourses are constituted and how they institute a
particular, yet contingent kind of social reality. Based on this theoretical
‘structure of feeling’ ( 1961 : 63). To flesh this out, our first task is to construct a compelling and suitably nuanced concept of democracy.
To advance my argument, therefore, in this chapter I will draw on the political theory of Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière and ChantalMouffe. In conjunction, these thinkers mount a consistent and cogent challenge to the hegemonic liberal view of democracy as a procedural set of norms pertaining to the internationally recognized ‘rule of law’. The work of Jürgen Habermas is foundational in constructing and advancing this
positions and perspectives which would be branded
as ‘irrational’. In other words, while the deliberative democracy model claims to be
open to difference and plurality – setting down the rules by which a rational agreement can be reached between conflicting positions – the very form that these rules
and procedures take ends up excluding difference and plurality in advance and
imposing certain restrictions on this supposedly free process of communication.
As ChantalMouffe argues:
What is misguided is the search for a final rational resolution. Not only can it
This book addresses the relationship between human rights and religion. The original blurb for the Oxford Amnesty Lectures of 2008 invited speakers and audiences to ponder arguments for the God-given source of human rights. The book explains how biblical inspiration (both Old and New Testament) fuelled the anti-slavery protests and later the civil rights movement in the United States. It develops the particular relevance, for arguments over human rights within Islam, of the writings of the medieval philosopher Muhammad al-Ghazali who justified an openness towards constructive engagement with other traditions. The book shows where the philosophical worldviews that inform the religion of Islam and the rights discourse may be distant from each other. It illustrates the challenge of taking the real world of human practice seriously while avoiding simplistic arguments for pluralism or relativism. The book focuses on Simon Schama's evocation of the religious fervour which helped feed the long struggles for liberation among American slave communities. It discusses the understanding of human rights in the Roman Catholic tradition. The book also shows that the Christian experience of Pentecost and what it means to learn to speak as well as understand another's language, is a continuing resource God has given the church to sustain the ability to suffer as well as respond to those who suffer for the long haul. The book argues that moral progress consists in the universalisation of Western liberal democracy with its specific understanding of human rights.