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Outline of a social theory of rights: A neo-pragmatist approach

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da Silva, FC 


jats:pThis article articulates a neo-pragmatist theory of human rights by drawing and expanding upon the American classical pragmatism of G.H. Mead. It characterizes this neo-pragmatist theory of rights by its anti-foundationalist, relational, fictive, and constitutive nature, and begins by providing a reconstruction of Mead’s social pragmatist approach to rights, a contribution systematically ignored by contemporary sociologists of rights. Next, it details the cost of this disciplinary oblivion by examining how much neo-pragmatism, critical theory, and legal consciousness studies have meanwhile gained by engaging with Mead’s work on rights. Finally, it discusses the contributions of this historical-theoretical exercise to the rapidly growing sociology of rights, and shows that by supplementing the neo-Meadian approach with a recent interpretation of Hobbes’s fictional theory of politics, there appear to be substantive gains in the empirical study of the origins, consequences, meaning, and denial of rights.</jats:p>



legal consciousness, Mead, pragmatism, rights

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European Journal of Social Theory

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SAGE Publications
This paper was written as part of the research project ‘‘Broken Promises. The Political Origins of Socioeconomic Inequality in Portugal, 1960-2010’’ funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC/CPJ-CPO/101290/2008).