What's Wrong with Rights?
This item is in stock and will be dispatched within 48 hours.
1 unit left in stock.
Paperback / softback
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of Pages: 376
Width: 15.1 cm
Height: 23.2 cm
Are natural rights 'nonsense on stilts', as Jeremy Bentham memorably put it? Must the very notion of a right be individualistic, subverting the common good? Should the right against torture be absolute, even though the heavens fall? Are human rights universal or merely expressions of Western neo-imperial arrogance? Are rights ethically fundamental, proudly impervious to changing circumstances? Should judges strive to extend the reach of rights from civil Hamburg to anarchical Basra? Should judicial oligarchies, rather than legislatures, decide controversial ethical issues by inventing novel rights? Ought human rights advocates learn greater sympathy for the dilemmas facing those burdened with government? These are the questions that What's Wrong with Rights? addresses. In doing so, it draws upon resources in intellectual history, legal philosophy, moral philosophy, moral theology, human rights literature, and the judgments of courts. It ranges from debates about property in medieval Christendom, through Confucian rights-scepticism, to contemporary discussions about the remedy for global hunger and the justification of killing. And it straddles assisted dying in Canada, the military occupation of Iraq, and genocide in Rwanda. What's Wrong with Rights? concludes that much contemporary rights-talk obscures the importance of fostering civic virtue, corrodes military effectiveness, subverts the democratic legitimacy of law, proliferates publicly onerous rights, and undermines their authority and credibility. The solution to these problems lies in the abandonment of rights-fundamentalism and the recovery of a richer public discourse about ethics, one that includes talk about the duty and virtue of rights-holders.
a welcomed addition to the current discussion. Biggar's previous work on the ethics of war gives him a unique angle to approach cases of rights talk, focusing on specific instances such as torture and killing in war. He makes a strong case for making rights the conclusion of a process of moral consideration rather than a foundational starting point to which everything else must yield. * Todd A. Scacewater, Journal of Language, Culture, and Religion * This is a scholarly book worth reading and a critique worth constructively engaging with. * Ethna Regan, Studies in Christian Ethics * Courageous ... What's Wrong With Rights? is a rich and challenging book. Not everyone will agree with Biggar's views, but anyone writing about human rights who wishes to be taken seriously will need to engage with his arguments. * Jonathan Sumption, The Times * I...commend this book for its clarity of reasoning and its engagement with fundamental issues with which we should all be discussing. * John Duddington, Law and Justice * A brilliant, provocative and intelligent book. * Simon Heffer, The Daily Telegraph * A thought-provoking work of scholarship... [a] compelling challenge to sloppy rights-thinking. * Craig Purshouse, Times Literary Supplement * This encyclopaedic study provides a marvellous survey of the complex field of rights and raises important questions as to the growing use of rights language. * R. Dean Drayton, International Journal of Public Theology * ...A powerfully reasoned intellectual history of the sceptical tradition from the 1780s to the present day. [Biggar is] a discriminating guide rather than an anti-rights ideologist, and his analysis of these traditions is intricate, exacting and fair. While clearly Christian in his perspective, he keeps claims from authority, especially divine authority, firmly in their place * Michael Ignatieff, Literary Review * It is a rigorously reasoned argument and ... Biggar succeeds brilliantly in deflating the inordinate claims made for rights today...Along with being a profound study in moral and political philosophy, this is also a devastating and highly topical attack on the belief that ethical dilemmas can be resolved by 'an oligarchy of judges' expanding existing rights and conjuring up new ones...Over the past two decades, Biggar has produced a body of work of the highest intellectual quality which has made him one of the leading living Western ethicists. * John Gray, New Statesman * Quietly, cautiously, and with careful scholarly integrity, Professor Biggar has derailed a gravy train. Should the UK withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights? Should it repeal or redraft the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010? The result would surely be petitions, denunciations, hostile crowds, the toppling of statues, the banning of speakers, self-righteous lawyers. But all this happens already; what is there to lose? Thanks to Biggar, we see how much there is to gain. It is time for philosophical arguments, won in the pages of this important book, to be translated into legislation. * Jonathan Clark, The Critic * This scholarly, but nonetheless most readable, book makes an important contribution to the debate about to be had when the UK Government takes forward its promised (some would say threatened) new Commission on the Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights. No stranger to controversy, Professor Biggar argues in effect that the assertion of human rights has got out of hand. He pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. This is a penetrating examination of the relationship between rights and responsibilities and reflects many of the concerns expressed in Jonathan Sumption's 2019 Reith Lectures. * Lord Simon Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood * What's Wrong With Rights? isone of the most remarkable scholarly achievements I know of:it deftly addresses a wide variety of theoretical and practical problems of great normative importance; it engages with a vast and complex legal, philosophical, and theological literature about the morality of rights; it articulates plausible assessments of the most important contributions to that literature; and perhaps most importantly, the topics it addresses are at the very heart of political discourse in contemporary liberal polities. I cannot recommend it more highly. * Christopher Eberle, Professor of Philosophy at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis * With the noble post-World War II human rights project increasingly imperiled by misunderstanding and manipulation, Nigel Biggar's new book is a major contribution to clear thinking about what we mean when we speak of rights. Whether or not they agree with his conclusions, friends of human rights everywhere should welcome this timely and informative analysis of what's wrong with rights and what needs to be done to put them right. * Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University and author of Rights Talk (1991) * Despite its eye-catching title, this book is neither a rejection of rights as such nor of natural morality, but a keen-eyed critique of natural rights in particular. In a discussion both dazzlingly wide-ranging and compellingly concrete, Nigel Biggar shows how natural rights talk undermines appropriate acknowledgement of the contingent, circumstantial character of political and ethical judgments. We do well to recognize that rights are paradigmatically legal and enrich ethical discourse by attending to virtues and duties as much as to rights. What's Wrong with Rights is the most significant Christian ethical contribution to reflection on rights since Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice: Rights and Wrongs. * Jennifer Herdt, Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethicsat Yale Divinity School * What's Wrong With Rights? is magisterial, combining theology, intellectual history, and detailed attention to particular cases and examples. Biggar is not afraid of making controversial judgements and works towards them in a manner that is honest and transparent, always commanding respect. At a deeper level, his book invites the reader to engage in debates about rights, maybe to disagree, but to do so from within a richer moral tradition, which gives more opportunity for insight, nuance, and dissent. The possibility arises of not only better judgements, but better disagreements. Both robust and generous, this landmark book represents a leading theological ethicist writing at the height of his powers. * Christopher Insole, Professor of Philosophical Theology and Ethics at Durham University * Rights talk has dominated public discourse for the past seventy years. But our political disagreements are worse than ever. Nigel Biggar not only explains what happened, he also proposes a comprehensive way forward. We need to move beyond "rights fundamentalism", and retrieve a richer public discourse that emphasizes duty, virtue, and the concrete challenges facing a political community. Crossing the boundaries of theology, philosophy, history, and law, Biggar's incisive analysis shows why talking about "natural rights" isn't helpful: defining, defending, and balancing rights always requires well-functioning legal institutions. * Cathleen Kaveny, Darald and Juliet Libby Professor of Law and Theology at Boston College * What's Wrong with Rights?is a finely crafted review of the history of rights and an insightful assessment of contemporary discussions across a range of disciplines and contexts. Nigel Biggar raises important basic questions for theology, ethics, and law, and this book will reshape our ways of thinking about rights in all three fields. * Robin W. Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor Emeritus of Ethics at Southern Methodist University, Dallas * This is a critique of one of most fashionable and incoherent notions of our time, the idea that there are enforceable rights, 'natural' or 'human', that exist independently of collective human choice. It is original, thought-provoking, and carefully reasoned. Such rights have many supporters, and always will have. But they should not be taken seriously unless they are willing to engage with the ideas in this impressive book. * Lord Jonathan Sumption, QC, former Justice of the Supreme Court of the UK * What's Wong With Rights? is a timely, wide-ranging, and historically informed book that subjects the prevailing human rights culture, in its various manifestations, to a strong dose of Burkean scepticism. Philosophers will be provoked by his thesis that rights are paradigmatically the creatures of law and form no part of natural morality. Lawyers will be challenged by the vigorous criticisms of what Biggar views as the illegitimate employment of rights vocabulary as a mean of enforcing the moral and political views of an "oligarchy of judges". This is an iconoclastic book that deserves to be reckoned with in the serious conversation about the nature and limits of rights that we desperately need. * John Tasioulas, Yeoh Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Law at King's College London * This is a cleverly titled, crisply written, and largely clear-eyed engagement with the history, concept, and limits of rights and right talk in the Western tradition and beyond.Nigel Biggar brings a big analytical mind and deft pen to the task - and a pair of sharp elbows too. He engages a substantial library of human rights scholarship and case law with critical acuity and philosophical originality, concluding with a cautious and conditional endorsement of rights. * John Witte, Jr, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and McDonald Distinguished Professor, Emory University School of Law, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University *