We argue that Menkiti and Gyekye – the forerunners in Afro-communitarianism, to different extents both trivialise the notion of human rights. While Menkiti prioritises community and denies human rights, Gyekye who upholds human rights subsumes these to the community. We contend that both are however mistaken in their trivial conceptions of human rights. To clarify the confusion, we propose that the notion of rights in Afro-communitarianism can have two possible senses namely, rights as participatory and rights as entitlements and that the failure to recognise these senses was what led Menkiti to a fringed position and Gyekye to a difficult position. We then conclude that Afro-communitarianism, in both Menkiti and Gyekye harbours a certain notion of rights contrary to Menkiti’s assumption but it is not one that accommodates the idea of inalienability contrary to Gyekye’s suggestion.
Jonathan O. Chimakonam and Victor C. A. Nweke
Who Is a Radical Communitarian?
In this article, I intervene in the debate about the nature of Afrocommunitarianism between Ifeanyi Menkiti and Kwame Gyekye. I contend that Menkiti’s talk of ‘personhood’ entails a perfectionist moral theory to the effect that one ought to lead a morally excellent life in a context of ‘being-with-others’. Secondly, I deny that Menkiti’s political theory rejects rights per se; rather, I submit, a more charitable reading would recognise that he takes an agnostic stance towards them and that he conceives of an African political theory as one that is duty-based (and if it considers rights at all, these are secondary to duties). I also highlight that Menkiti’s contribution poses a challenge to African philosophers to justify their ontological commitment to rights. I conclude by drawing our attention to the fact that Gyekye’s in his latter political philosophy writings endorses Menkiti’s duty-based political theory, that rights take secondary consideration to duties.
A Response to Masaka's Objection of Menkiti
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.