Rethinking Rights: Historical, Political, and Philosophical Perspectives

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $38.74
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 22%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (5) from $38.74   
  • New (2) from $41.66   
  • Used (3) from $38.74   


As reports of genocide, terrorism, and political violence fill today’s newscasts, more attention has been given to issues of human rights—but all too often the sound bites seem overly simplistic. Many Westerners presume that non-Western peoples yearn for democratic rights, while liberal values of toleration give way to xenophobia.

This book shows that the identification of rights with contemporary liberal democracy is inaccurate and questions the assumptions of many politicians and scholars that rights are self-evident in all circumstances and will overcome any conflicts of thought or interest. Rethinking Rights offers a radical reconsideration of the origins, nature, and role of rights in public life, interweaving perspectives of leading scholars in history, political science, philosophy, and law to emphasize rights as a natural outgrowth of a social understanding of human nature and dignity.

The authors argue that every person comes to consciousness in a historical and cultural milieu that must be taken into account in understanding human rights, and they describe the omnipresence of concrete, practical rights in their historical, political, and philosophical contexts. By rooting our understanding of rights in both history and the order of existence, they show that it is possible to understand rights as essential to our lives as social beings but also open to refinement within communities.

An initial group of essays retraces the origins and historical development of rights in the West, assessing the influence of such thinkers as Locke, Burke, and the authors of the Declaration of Independence to clarify the experience of rights within the Western tradition. A second group addresses the need to rethink our understanding of the nature of existence if we are to understand rights and their place in any decent life, examining the ontological basis of rights, the influence of custom on rights, the social nature of the human person, and the importance of institutional rights.

Steering a middle course between radical individualist and extreme egalitarian views, Rethinking Rights proposes a new philosophy of rights appropriate to today’s world, showing that rights need to be rethought in a manner that brings them back into accord with human nature and experience so that they may again truly serve the human good. By engaging both the history of rights in the West and the multicultural challenge of rights in an international context, Rethinking Rights offers a provocative and coherent new argument to advance the field of rights studies.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826218209
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2008
  • Series: Eric Voegelin Institute Series, #1
  • Edition description: index
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Editors
Bruce P. Frohnen is Editor of the Political Science Reviewer, Senior Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, and author of, among other works, The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism. Kenneth L. Grasso is Professor of Political Science at Texas State University in San Marcos. His books include Catholicism and Religious Freedom: Contemporary Reflections on Vatican II’s Declaration of Religious Liberty, edited with Robert P. Hunt.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction Rights in a Multicultural Age Bruce P. Frohnen Frohnen, Bruce P. Kenneth L. Grasso Grasso, Kenneth L.

Historical Roots of Modern Rights: Before Locke and After Brian Tierney Tierney, Brian

Natural Rights and Social Contract in Burke and Bellarmine Gary D. Glenn Glenn, Gary D.

Natural Law, Natural Rights, and the Declaration of Independence George W. Carey Carey, George W.

Individual and Group Rights: Self-Government and Claims of Right in Historical Practice Bruce P. Frohnen Frohnen, Bruce P.

The Ontology of Rights Kenneth L. Schmitz Schmitz, Kenneth L.

The Historical and Communal Roots of Legal Rights and the Erosion of the State Paul Gottfried Gottfried, Paul

Reintegrating Rights: Catholicism, Social Ontology, and Contemporary Rights Discourse Kenneth L. Grasso Grasso, Kenneth L.

Toward a Social Pluralist Theory of Institutional Rights Jonathan Chaplin Chaplin, Jonathan

Epilogue: Toward an Integrative Vision Bruce P. Frohnen Frohnen, Bruce P.

Notes on the Contributors


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)