Human Rights as Capabilities. From Political Philosophy to Sociology

Monday, July 14, 2014: 2:15 PM
Room: 502
Jean DE MUNCK , CriDIS, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Jean-Michel BONVIN , University of Applied Science and Arts Western Switzerland, University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
In our global world, domination and critique use the same vocabulary : the “human rights discourse” has become a general framework of political conflicts. How can sociology deal with this new aspect of the “objective spirit” (as Robert Fine puts it) of our times? Sociology must overcome the traditional dismissal of human rights as an abstract universal masking Western imperialism. Nevertheless, the critique of formalism and hegemonic distortions are more than ever necessary. On the epistemological level, two discussions are to be connected : the discussion inside the political and legal philosophy on the idea of rights (Sen, Raz, Habermas…); the discussion of legal sociologists on the efficiency of legal institutions in a globalized world. The “Capability approach” to rights can be a fruitful approach if we supplement it with a pragmatist, institutionalist and pluralist sociology. On the empirical level, we should use the Capability approach in order to overcome the legalistic understanding of human rights. Implementation of rights is more than sheer application of a legal rule; social control of human rights implementation is more than judicial review. Discussions in social movements on the meaning of the rights are quite important (the “right to food sovereignty”, for instance, in the “Campesino movement”). If used by a critical sociology, human rights can be an efficient way toward global justice.