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People's rights and obligations are very spoken about in democratic political debates. Talking about rights raises spectrum of obligation to respect others rights and the theme of rights has major currency in domestic and international politics, particularly human rights. When thinking about rights and obligations we should always try to keep in mind the difference between normative and empirical: when saying one should have a right it is normative and if the claim is set out in legal framework and put in matter is an empirical matter. Put simply, a right is a claim of entitlement, a claim that an individual possesses certain entitlements that others must recognize and respect, the language of rights is a common feature of modern politics. These claims may or may not be respected in practise; they may not be a universal feature of society. Today, knowing your own rights and obligations is very important as it is a form of both protection and recognition of centuries of hard work that our ancestors endured to give us this safety net to fall on if our liberty were violated.
The idea of rights was not a feature of the ancient world, the ancient Greeks set expectations of what the right conduct is but their legal systems, according to conventional wisdom, were not preoccupied with claims of entitlements. The idea of rights only emerged in C12-14th in Europe with historical processes of democratisation such as the formation of the Magna carta, which recently celebrated its 800th anniversary and is a document which bound up rights sealed by King John.
By the age of Enlightenment, rights became central to all political discussions and many philosophers, jurists and authors began to produce works on rights; it is in this period in fact that philosopher John Locke wrote about natural rights - life, liberty and the state. In 1776 the task of government was to protect these rights and this led to the American Declaration of independence whereas the year 1789 witnessed the declaration of the rights of man and the citizens, in early stages on French revolution. In these two last events the rights being discussed where still simply moral claims but it was a political attempt to make these rights legal realities. Even some time before this, in 1688, the English people had protected their very own rights and sought to overthrow their King for the first time.
OPPOSITION OF NATURAL RIGHTS:
Edmund burke criticised the idea of natural rights on two grounds: rights aren’t natural but reflection of culture relativism (socially embedded) and abstract entitlements were dangerous because to maintain political order, the first task of government, one must balance things so the language of fundamental rights makes balancing so much harder.
Jeremy Bentham went slightly further critiquing the declaration of rights saying the claims make sense only after creation of legal system, there is nothing natural about rights and the idea is simply “nonsense on stilts”. For Karl Marx natural rights camouflage and disguise real inequalities and they put too much emphasis on individual’s liberty when man is above all a social animal. These critics are still heard today when discussing human rights as the older ideas are still resonated today.