The Concept of Human Rights by Some Liberal ThinkersJune 28, 2021
According to some liberal thinkers such as Maurice Cranston and Robert Nozick, human rights are limited only to “first generation” rights, civil and political rights. Positive rights such as social and economic rights are excluded from this scope (Orend 2002, p.32 and p. 110).
The reason for this is that civil and political rights require only an action or intervention from the state, and due to this nature, they can be fulfilled universally. On the other hand, economic, social and cultural rights are not universal and depend on certain institutions such as the welfare state. Fulfilling the requirements of this is compelling for some states. Thinkers like Maurice Cranston argue that there can be no “obligation to fulfill things that cannot be fulfilled”, based on the fact that these are not valid everywhere due to the burden of unfulfilled costs, and therefore such rights cannot be rights (Freeman 2008, p. 82). The proof of the existence of any moral right is its “applicability”, according to them.
Another view, which does not consider economic, social and cultural rights among fundamental or human rights, but broadens the scope of human rights compared to Nozick and Cranston, is advocated by Henry Shue (Tepe 2006: 97-104). According to Shue, fundamental rights are not just “rights to security” or the right to life and immunities. Likewise, the “right to exist” is one of the fundamental rights. By this, Shue means having the lowest level of economic security and being able to survive. However, the right to education is not seen as a fundamental right because it is not necessary to protect the right to education in order for a person to survive or to protect other rights.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook