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Pragmatism, Rights and Democracy (American Philosophy

This volume of essays is based on Singer's earlier works on the theory of human rights, notably her 1993 book, Operative Rights. It contains several chapters in which she criticizes conventional theories, traditional as well as contemporary, and provides further clarification of her own view. In addition, the book includes applications of Singer's theory to a wide range of topics and issues, including multiculturalism, minority rights, conflict resolution, liberalism, communitarianism, and democracy. Among the philosophers whose work is treated at length are Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hill Green, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Charles Taylor, Alan Gewirth, and Will Kymlicka. As the title of the book (and the title essay) suggests, in her view of the democratic process, Singer is most influenced by Dewey and Mead.
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"Singer's theory of rights, an impressive development of social accounts by pragmatists George Herbert Mead and John Dewey, was developed in Operative Rights (1993). This successor volume includes applications, lectures, replies to critics, and clarifications. For Singer, Dewey, and Mead, rights exist only if they are embedded in the operative practices of a community. People have a right in a community if their claim is acknowledged, and if they would acknowledge similar claims by others. Singer's account contrasts with theories of natural rights, which state that humans have rights by virtue of being human. Singer's account also differs from Kantian attempts to derive rights from the necessary conditions of rationality. While denying that rights exist independently of a community's practices, Singer maintains that rights to personal autonomy and authority ought to exist in all communities. Group rights, an anathema among individualistic theories, are from Singer's pragmatist perspective a valuable institution. Singer's discussion of rights appropriate for minority communities (e.g., the Bosnian Muslims and the Canadian Quebecois) is particularly illuminating. Her book is a model of careful reasoning. General libraries, and certainly academic libraries, should have Singer's Operative Rights. The volume under review is a good addition for research libraries and recommended for graduate students and above."[Singer] examines the views of Rousseau, Mill, and T. H. Green on human rights and those of Dewey and G. H. Mead on the relationship between rights and the democratic process... Recommended." -Choice "[Singer] examines the views of Rousseau, Mill, and T. H. Green on human rights and those of Dewey and G. H. Mead on the relationship between rights and the democratic process... Recommended." -Library Journal

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