Christoph Menke

Jan 13, 2021

Critique of Rights

Polity 2019

Christoph Menke, who is professor of philosophy at the Goethe University in Frankfurt Germany and considered the most important representative of the third generation of the "Frankfurt School of Critical Theory", presents in Critique of Rights (Polity Press 2020) a critical reflection on modern normativity in the so-called "Western world". More specifically: He analyzes “subjective rights”. To have a right means to have a justified and binding claim. Now Menke exposes in his book – which is both a genealogy and an ontology of law – that these “subjective rights”, which mark the birth of bourgeois society, have ambivalent properties. They are not only expressions of individuality and freedom everybody of us enjoys today as the most important achievement that Enlightenment has transferred to us. They also create what Karl Marx called "the entitlement of the egoistic human being, set apart from his fellow human being and from the community”. Private interests become the new natural basis for politics. Contrary to what one might think “subjective rights” do not empower the citizens of a political community but disempower them.

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