Available in Russian
Author: Daniel Smilov
Keywords: antipaternalism; constitutional identity; human rights; liberal democracy; populism; threatened majorities
The paper explores different scenarios, which put human rights under significant stress in the contemporary political environment. Three classical scenarios are outlined, which undermine human rights for the sake of greater security, greater happiness or greater popular power. The author suggests in this paper that human rights today are not likely to be undermined by these three classical scenarios. They most probably will not die a heroic death at the hands of a Leviathan, a Grand Inquisitor, or a Revolutionary Convent. Yet, there is some real danger that they could die the unusual death of exhibits in an ethnographic museum of the habits of endangered, self-centred majorities in liberal democracies. These majorities are convinced in the superiority of their way of life and have grown fearful of losing it. The fear has led to a (hopefully temporary) suspension of solidarity, empathy and compassion. Rights are often presented to be in tension with popular sovereignty and democracy. But rights have not flourished without democracy. The expansion of rights has historically been accompanied by democratisation. This is all the more troubling for rights, because liberal democracy today also seems under some threat. The paper argues that the predicament in which liberal democracy is the following: it has constructed ‘authentic’, self-centred and self-interested majorities. Politicians cater for the interest of these majorities by adopting a rather antipaternalist stance. From this point of view, the greatest danger to liberal democracy may not be that it slides into autocracy or oligarchy in the Aristotelian sense. According to Aristotle, a democracy could be defective when it is ruled by majorities, which do not care for the interest of society as a whole. Self-interest and egoism were according to him a way to the degradation of democracy (the politea) and its transformation into a rule of the mob. Contemporary democracy risks portraying itself exactly along these lines.
About the author: Daniel Smilov – Doctor of Philosophy, SJD in Law, Associate Professor, Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Citation: Smilov D. (2020) Prava cheloveka v epokhu antipaternalizma [Human rights in the age of antipaternalism]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.2, pp.58–70. (In Russian).
Achen C.H., Bartels L.M. (2016) Democracy for Realist: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Blockmans S., Russack S. (eds.) (2018) Direct Democracy in the EU: The Myth of a Citizens’ Union, London: Rowman & Littlefield International.
Eatwell R., Goodwin M. (2018) National Populism: The Revolt against Liberal Democracy, London: Pelican Books.
Ely J.H. (1981) Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Judt T. (2005) Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, New York: The Penguin Press.
Krastev I. (2014) Democracy Disrupted: The Politics of Global Protest, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Krastev I. (2015) Eastern Europe’s Compassion Deficit. The New York Times, 8 September. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/09/opinion/eastern-europes-compassion-deficit-refugees-migrants.html (accessed: 31.03.2020).
Krastev I. (2017) After Europe, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Lipka M. (2018) Greek Attitudes Toward Religion, Minorities Align More with Central and Eastern Europe than West. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/31/greek-attitudes-toward-religion-minorities-align-more-with-central-and-eastern-europe-than-west/ (accessed: 01.04.2020).
Mudde C., Kaltwasser C.R. (2017) Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Persson I., Savulescu J. (2019) The Duty to Be Morally Enhanced. Topoi, vol.38, no.1, pp.7–14. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11245-017-9475-7 (accessed: 03.04.2020).
Piketty T. (2014) Capital in the Twenty First Century, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Raz J. (1988) The Morality of Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rosanvallon P. (2008) Counter-Democracy: Politics in an Age of Distrust, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sajó A. (ed.) (2004) Militant Democracy, Utrecht: Eleven International Publishing.
Smilov D. (2015) The Politics of Protest: Between the Venting of Frustration and Transformation of Democracy: Policy Paper. Sofia: Centre for Liberal Strategies. Available at: www.robertboschacademy.de/content/language2/downloads/CLS_The_Politics_of_Protest_Policy_Paper.pdf (accessed: 01.04.2020).
Thaler R.H., Sunstein C.R. (2009) Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, London: Penguin Books.
Zielonka J. (2018) Counter-Revolution: Liberal Europe in Retreat, Oxford: Oxford University Press.