Rights and Worlds: The Political Significance of Belonging

Rights and Worlds: The Political Significance of Belonging.  Paper presented by Shannon Hoff at Guelph University, January 17, 2014.

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Modernity is characterized by an assertion of the individual as a singular unit of significance and its various systems (political, legal, economic, and so on) have taken their lead from the idea of the individual as the bearer of rights. This modern prioritization of the individual, however, while a powerful accomplishment, is also problematic: it does not adequately recognize how the individual it prioritizes would itself point to other contexts of significance by which its identity is constituted and made meaningful. This paper will explore this basic tension between these two visions of selfhood – one expressed in terms of "rights" and the other in terms of "worlds". It will show how care for these basic worlds of significance is necessary for the very operation of rights, and it will point to various ways in which the significance of these "worlds" could be politically recognized and protected.