Politicising human rights in Europe: challenges to legal constitutionalism from the Left and the Right

Nash, Kate. 2016. Politicising human rights in Europe: challenges to legal constitutionalism from the Left and the Right. The International Journal of Human Rights, 20(8), pp. 1295-1308. ISSN 1364-2987 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this article I compare the political rhetoric of Podemos and the Tories. Ideologically opposed, both parties use populist rhetoric and both thematise human rights as central to their populism. The article compares the parties’ uses of human rights along three dimensions: Who are human rights for? What are human rights? And how should they be achieved in practice? How Podemos and the Tories construct human rights challenges the ongoing project of European legal constitutionalism, the juridicalisation of rights which means that disputes over the interpretation of rights are referred to constitutional courts, where – ideally – they become the object of impartial and definitive decisions by judges who reason only through legal principles. Podemos from the Left is challenging European legal constitutionalism in the name of social justice, the Tories from the Right in the name of security: both parties construct European elites (and in Podemos’s case, national elites too) as a danger to democracy. Demonstrating what it means to take seriously the theoretical consequences of social constructivism - human rights are necessarily political – the article proposes a framework for the analysis of explicitly politicised human rights.

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constitutionalism, law, courts, democracy, populism, neoliberalism, social rights, migrants

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Unit for Global Justice (UGJ)


19 September 2016Accepted
21 October 2016Published Online

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Date Deposited:

21 Sep 2016 10:48

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2021 11:39

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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