Cosmopolitan Moralism and Human Rights

Sometimes I have the impression that all intellectuals have become cosmopolitans. But there is an increasing gap between what intellectuals think and preach and what the ordinary people feel. There is a growing divergence between the demos and the elites, especially concerning the perception and the treatment that should be reserved to the “diverse”: immigrants, minorities, gays and so on are more and more perceived as a threat. When xenophobia is rising, the intellectuals have a responsibility to help to distinguish between the real and apparent reasons, even at the price to become isolated from great parts of the population.

– Daniele Archibugi

In this post I want to both feature and expand upon an upcoming special issue (Volume 12, Issue 1) of Human Rights Review, which I  guest edited with my colleague and friend Marta Iñiguez de Heredia. The special issue focuses on human rights as an ideal and practical politics, opening some initial space to consider why the interaction between moral ideals and practical politics is important, and provoking discussion of how the clear divide between them is unsustainable.

To set the stage, we find Daniele Archibugi and Seyla Benhabib discussing Cosmopolitanism at Open Democracy. For both authors the place of universal rights in cosmopolitan politics is central, but the moral principle expressed through universal human rights works in a very particular way. This approach to human rights prioritizes what, in the paper, we call the “philosopher’s” understanding of rights, which begins from rational moral principles already known before political action is taken.

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