By Richard A. Primus
Richard A. Primus examines 3 an important classes in American heritage (the overdue eighteenth century, the Civil struggle and the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties) and demonstrates how the conceptions of rights triumphing at each one of those instances grew out of competition to concrete political circumstances. within the first research of its variety, Primus highlights the impression of totalitarianism (in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union) at the language of rights. This publication may be a huge contribution to modern political conception, of curiosity to students and scholars in politics and govt, constitutional legislation, and American historical past.
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Extra resources for The American Language of Rights (Ideas in Context)
32 Taylor, "Interpretation," pp. 15–16. Paul Ricoeur makes a similar point, saying that understanding an object of hermeneutic study is the same as understanding a metaphor: that which is to be interpreted "says" one thing to "mean" another, and the task of the interpreter is to make this apparent contradiction intelligible. Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. a hundred seventy five. Page 32 preter to do. In much of American rights discourse, it is certainly the case that meaning and expression are distinct. Indeed, the many unsuccessful attempts to define and elucidate the meaning of rights testify to the degree to which meaning in rights discourse is not readily apparent and stands in need of interpretation. The Limits of the Practice Analyzing rights discourse as a linguistic practice requires having some way of knowing what uses of language count as part of the practice and what uses of language do not. In line with the methods described above, the practice must be understood to include actual uses of the word "right" rather than only those uses which accord with some formal definition. It would be easy to say that I will consider all uses of the word "right" equally, but it would also be terribly misguided. Some uses of the word "right," such as by a geometer discussing a right angle, have nothing to do with the current topic. 33 We want to explore not just a word but a concept. Additionally, some attempts to employ the concept of rights may be incoherent, like the utterance of "checkmate" to the clerk at the fruit shop. We need some criteria to determine what uses of the term and the concept ''rights" are part of the practice we are investigating. These criteria should tell us not the formal or objective essence of the concept but rather when we are seeing the concept at work. In choosing the necessary criteria, I rely upon the patterns of use to which the term "rights" has been put throughout American history. The writings of Wesley Hohfeld provide an excellent framework for examining the ways in which Americans speak about rights, and, as discussed below, I draw upon his work partly for his analysis and partly for what his methods reveal about uses of rights language. I also rely upon historical patterns in rights language as presented in chapters 3, 4, and 5. The patterns present in Hohfeld's study and the patterns I explicate in the coming chapters match each other well, providing mutual support for the proposition that those styles 33 Richard Dagger has illustrated the range of uses of "right" as follows: "We may turn to the right, for instance, even when that is not the right way to turn; the Pythagorean theorem deals with rightangled triangles; governments sometimes shift to the right; straightforward people come right to the point when they seek to right matters; and we occasionally find that what someone is doing is not right, morally speaking, even though she has the right to do it. " Richard Dagger, "Rights," in Ball, Farr, and Hanson, Political Innovation, p.
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