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Human Rights in Light of Childhood

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This essay argues that children's rights will adequately transform societies only when the very concept of “human rights” is reimagined in light of childhood. In this case, human rights would be understood as grounded, not in modernist ideas of autonomy, liberty, entitlement, or even agency, but in a postmodern circle of responsibility to one another. This “childist” interpretation of rights is constructed by examining various forms of child-centered ethical theory in Western history; their impacts on major human rights theories of the Enlightenment and today; alternative visions implied in twentieth century international children's rights agreements; new theoretical groundings arising out of postmodern ethics; and the possibility of human rights as truly including all humanity.

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Philosophy and Religion and Childhood Studies, Rutgers University


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