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51Ji7MML9jL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Democracy as Human Rights: Freedom and Equality in the Age of Globalization

Democracy has traditionally been understood to apply within and pertain to states.  Globalization prompts theorists, politicians, and citizens alike to reconsider this traditional view, to think about whether and how democracy might work beyond states.  Cosmopolitan democrats propose extending democratic institutions and procedures to the global level, while advocates of state reinforcement call for rejecting and resisting globalization to preserve democracy.  I argue that neither approach is likely to succeed because neither adequately grasps how deeply democracy’s meaning and its practice have been affected by its complex historical and conceptual ties with the sovereign state.  In this book I argue that globalization challenges not just the borders, scope, and reach of modern democracy but also its very essence.  I establish this claim through an original, critical reading of democracy’s relationship with sovereignty and offer a novel reinterpretation of core democratic principles informed by that history and designed to meet the exigencies of an age of globalization.

Part I of the book presents a conjectural history of democracy’s entanglement with sovereignty.  I argue that the rich normative discourse of sovereignty definitively shaped early modern thinking about politics and the state, blending prescriptive and empirical claims into a new and distinctive justification of rule.  Early modern democracy took on the characteristics of sovereignty through the social contract, a theoretical device that transferred sovereignty from prince to people.  The transfer was justified through an appeal to natural freedom and equality, yet after the transfer these universal principles wound up constrained by the conceptual and territorial limits of the sovereign state.  While the internal or domestic limits on freedom and equality were challenged almost immediately by democrats, the external limits remained mostly unquestioned until recently.  Now, globalization is eroding sovereignty and transforming states, remaking the modern configuration of rule and undercutting modern democracy’s normative and empirical foundations.  Paradoxically, democracy seems both to require and to rule out supranational governance in such conditions.

Part II develops a reinterpretation of democracy that draws on its longstanding commitment to freedom and equality and on its early political and theoretical connections with the idea of human rights.  This account, which I call democracy as human rights (DHR), aims at realizing freedom and equality in multiple spheres of governance from the local to the global levels.  It is an attempt to work out what the universal potential in democracy’s core commitments might require once disentangled from sovereignty, an attempt to extend democracy’s logic globally by supplementing traditional representative government with institutions to guarantee fundamental human rights.  I defend DHR against likely criticisms – including that it is “not democracy” – and extensively discuss its institutionalization and implementation.  This account offers a flexible, plausible, and appealing way to realize democracy more fully within and beyond the state.

Praise for Democracy as Human Rights

“Michael Goodhart has written a powerful critique of contemporary theories of democracy….His alternative, based on the universal value of fundamental human rights, is developed with great energy and ingenuity. This book will be controversial, but all concerned with democracy and human rights under conditions of globalization will be challenged by it to rethink what ‘democracy’ can mean in our time.

—Michael Freeman, Research Professor of Government, University of Essex

“Michael Goodhart seeks to replace the paradoxical conception of sovereign democracy – which both precludes and requires supranational governance – with the concept of democracy as human rights.  Democracy as Human Rights is a major rethinking of democratic theory for an age of globalization.”

—Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University


HRPPHuman Rights: Politics and Practice , 3rd edition, edited by Michael Goodhart

Human Rights: Politics and Practice is the first comprehensive textbook for politics students.  It offers an unparalleled breadth and depth of coverage, with 23 purpose-written chapters authored by a diverse team of international experts.  Eight core chapters introduce the main theoretical issues and challenges in the study of human rights as a political phenomenon, addressing normative foundations, feminist and activist approaches, international relations, international law, comparative politics, sociological and anthropological approaches, contemporary critiques of human rights, and issues in measuring and monitoring rights.  Fifteen thematic chapters offer detailed analysis and case studies of key issues in the politics and practice of human rights, including chapters on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, human trafficking, forced migration, indigenous peoples’ human rights, humanitarian intervention, and the environment, among others. These chapters illustrate normative, empirical, legal, critical, and policy-oriented approaches, allowing students to deepen their theoretical understanding while learning about important contemporary developments in the field.  This text is ideal for advanced undergraduates or beginning masters students.  An extensive array of online resources enhances student learning and provides valuable support for lecturers.

Praise for Human Rights: Politics and Practice

“This wide-ranging, thoughtful collection provides a state-of-the-art introduction to the key debates on human rights. The chapters are deep yet accessible, and overall convey a strong sense of the stakes and implications alongside the principles and institutions.”

—Alison Brysk, Mellichamp Chair in Global Governance, Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

“The best comprehensive text I have found for an introductory human rights course.”

—Jeff Bachmann, American University

“Goodhart has complied an invaluable resource: a text that draws top human rights scholars from multiple fields into a vibrant conversation with students.  This text sets the standard for excellent in human rights teaching.”

—Shareen Hertel, editor, Journal of Human Rights, University of Connecticut


HR21cHuman Rights in the 21st Century: Continuity and Change since 9/11, edited by Michael Goodhart and Anja Mihr

Human Rights in the 21st Century challenges the familiar idea that ‘everything changed’ after 9/11. Leading international human rights scholars assess continuity and change in the international human rights regime in the 21st century, analyzing compliance and violations, normative and political discourses, legal and institutional developments at the national, regional, and international levels, and developments in the non-state sector. Written from diverse methodological perspectives, the volume provides rich and varied insights on vital questions concerning the resiliency, weaknesses, and prospects of human rights today.


At a particularly urgent world-historical moment, this volume brings together some of the leading researchers of social movements and global social change and other emerging scholars and practitioners to advance new thinking about social movements and global transformation.  Social movements around the world today are responding to crisis by defying both political and epistemological borders, offering alternatives to the global capitalist order that are imperceptible through the modernist lens.  Informed by a world-historical perspective, contributors explain today’s struggles as building upon the experiences of the past while also coming together globally i ways that are inspiring innovation and consolidating new thinking about what a fundamentally different, more equitable, just, and sustainable world order might look like.

This collection offers new insights into contemporary movements for global justice, challenging readers to appreciate how modernist thinking both colors our own observations and complicates the work of activists seeking to resolve inequities and contradictions that are deeply embedded in Western cultural traditions and institutions. Contributors consider today’s movements in the longue durée—that is, they ask how Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and other contemporary struggles for liberation reflect, build upon, or diverge from anti-colonial and other emancipatory struggles of the past. Critical to this volume is its exploration of how divisions over gender equity and diversity of national cultures and class have impacted what are increasingly intersectional global movements. The contributions of feminist and indigenous movements come to the fore in this collective exploration of what the movements of yesterday and today can contribute to our ongoing effort to understand the dynamics of global transformation in order to help advance a more equitable, just, and ecologically sustainable world.