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Rights and Duties in Menkiti

A Response to Masaka's Objection of Menkiti

Vitumbiko Nyirenda

Dennis Masaka argues that individuals have rights outside those conferred by the community. The argument is a critique to Ifeanyi Menkiti’s view of personhood. He argues that Menkiti uses the word person and personhood as synonymous. Masaka makes a distinction between the two, where person is an ontological concept, and personhood is a normative concept. For Masaka, individuals have rights by virtue of being persons and not personhood. My approach to the paper is therapeutic. I argue that Masaka misinterprets Menkiti’s views. I argue that Menkiti does not allocate rights in his idea of personhood and as something conferred by the community as proposed by Masaka. This implies that Masaka’s view is not radically different from Menkiti’s.

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Dennis Masaka

In this article, I argue that individuals could be entitled to rights, outside those that are communally conferred, as part of the primary requirement of being ‘persons’ in the African communitarian set-up if the terms ‘person’ and ‘personhood’ are understood differently from the way they are currently deployed in the communitarian discourse. The distinction between these two terms is the basis of my thesis where clarity on their meanings could be helpful in establishing the possibility of ascribing rights outside those that are communally conferred. I argue that ontologically, a ‘person’ is prior to ‘personhood’ (understood in the normative sense) which is considered to find its fuller expression in a community and by virtue of this, I think that he or she is entitled to some rights outside those that are defined and conferred by the community. This is my point of departure in this article.

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Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate

Who Is a Radical Communitarian?

Motsamai Molefe

characterises an African moral thought. Secondly, I demonstrate that Menkiti actually does not necessarily deny nor reject rights per se; instead, he is proposing an alternative political model that prioritises duties/obligations for the sake of the common good

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Cosmopolitan Justice

Education and Global Citizenship

Penny Enslin and Mary Tjiattas

Darrel Moellendorf argues that duties of justice have global scope. We share Moellendorf’s rejection of statism and his emphasis on duties of justice arising out of association in Cosmopolitan Justice. Building on Moellendorf’s view that there are cosmopolitan duties of justice, we argue that in education they are both negative and positive, requiring redistribution of educational resources and transnational educational intervention. We suggest what kinds of intervention are justifiable and required, the kinds of international structures that could regulate them, and a conception of cosmopolitan citizenship to underpin education for global citizenship.

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Invoking a World of Ideas

Theory and Interpretation in the Justification of Colonialism

David Boucher

to violate, the inviolable Natural Law. Christian missionaries must be allowed free access to the lands of the infidel, and remain unmolested in fulfilling their duty to God in preaching His word to all nations ( Peters 2004: 63 ). Although the

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Richard Child

Statists claim that robust egalitarian distributive norms only apply between the citizens of a common state. Attempts to defend this claim on nationalist grounds often appeal to the 'associative duties' that citizens owe one another in virtue of their shared national identity. In this paper I argue that the appeal to co-national associative duties in order to defend the statist thesis is unsuccessful. I first develop a credible theory of associative duties. I then argue that although the associative theory can explain why the members of a national community should abide by egalitarian norms, it cannot show that people have a duty to become or to continue as a member of a national community in the first place. The possibility that citizens might exercise their right to reject their national membership undermines the state's ability justifiably to coerce compliance with egalitarian distributive norms and, ultimately, the statist claim itself.

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Erasmus Masitera

There has been much debate on the question of rights in African communitarian thinking. Some scholars have averred that duties are prior to rights in African communitarian society, and that to prioritise rights is foreign to the non-Western perspective. Yet, there are others who argue that in non-Western societies rights are prior to duties. I share this view. I present my position by arguing that economic rights in African communitarianism affirms autonomy of the individual, though the same rights are expressed through the ideas of consensus and human well-being. In my argument I state that human well-being is well expressed as a communal effort climaxed through consensus where all these are premised on individual autonomy. By arguing in this way, I respond to the accusation that says African philosophers who argue for the priority of rights have failed to demonstrate how rights are considered prior to duties in African societies.

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Ramin Jahanbegloo

The article deals with Mohandas K. Gandhi's theory of democracy and its related civic practices. It indicates the relation between Gandhi's idea of civic duty and his idea of democracy, and argues that few would dispute that Gandhi was one of the most original and transformative thinkers of democracy. The article maintains that among his many notable contributions, Gandhi is rightly credited with emphasizing on the ideas of citizenship duty, truth in politics, genuine self-rule, and ethically enlightened democracy. In addition to advocating self-sustaining villages and communal cooperation, Gandhi developed an idea of non-liberal democracy reducing individualism, economic greed, and laissez-faire by insisting on a duty oriented and spiritually empowered participative democracy. Nearly seven decades after his death, Gandhi stands as one of the most significant and relevant non-Western theorist of democracy.

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Islam, Rights, and Ethical Life

The Problem of Political Modernity in the Islamic World

Michael J. Thompson

This paper considers the roots of the dissonance between political modernity and Islamic societies. It argues that primacy has to be given to the analysis of different paradigms of 'ethical life' which are ways in which ethical-political categories are organized within society. A distinction is made between 'nomocentric' and 'rights-based' paradigms of ethical life, the former associated with a system of moral duties and the latter with a system of political and ethical rights accorded to the individual. I argue that the emphasis on a nomocentric paradigm of ethical life has the effect of suppressing the development of a rights-based ethical and political discourse in large enough segments of the society to limit a progressive change toward political modernity. I further analyze the ways in which forces of social and economic modernisation play a role in antagonizing the relation between modernity and the more traditional forms of ethical life which predominate in Islamic society and political/ethical thought.

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Zygmunt Bauman

A bizarre adventure happened to space on the road to globalisation: it lost its importance while gaining in significance. On the one hand, as Paul Virilio insists,1 territorial sovereignty has lost almost all substance and a good deal of its former attraction; if every spot can be reached and abandoned instantaneously, a permanent hold over a territory with the usual accompaniment of long-term duties and commitments turns from an asset into a liability and becomes a burden rather than a resource in power struggle. On the other hand, as Richard Sennett points out, ‘as the shifting institutions of the economy diminish the experience of belonging somewhere special … people’s commitments increase to geographic places like nations, cities and localities’.2 On the one hand, everything can be done to far away places of other peoples without going anywhere. On the other, little can be prevented from being done to one’s own place however stubbornly one holds to it.