Progress as Human Rights: Condorcet and the Human Rights Discourse

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Conference Proceeding


This paper examines the work of Nicolas Condorcet (1743-1794) as a contribution to the political theory of human rights. It was he who defined the idea of progress in terms readily recognizable as a demand for the endless extension of human rights. His central concerns were modernization and questions the protection of and respect for the individual, for freedom of conscience and expression, the proscription of coerced labor, torture, and capital punishment, and the extension of civil, political, and social rights to women, the propertyless, and children. His arguments also provide a unique opportunity to explore the remaining potential of Enlightenment ideals as well as the contradictions inherent in human rights claims. A critical reconstruction of Condorcet’s work, provides the opportunity for the appropriation of some of the central categories of the Enlightenment for contemporary human rights discourse.

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Conference Papers - American Political Science Association 2002 Annual Meeting

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