Critical Bibliographies: Human Rights

by | 1 Jun 2015


We regularly get requests from students and activists looking for suggested readings on particular topics, so I thought it might be a good idea to supplement our critical concepts page with critical bibliographies on various important subjects for critical legal studies. With Ben Golder, Jessica Whyte and some really helpful crowd-sourcing from facebook, we have put together a first and entirely partial list of critical human rights books. Apologies for the books that we have missed. Please suggest the (no doubt many) titles that we have forgotten or missed in the comments. At some stage in the future I will revisit the page and consolidate and update, but I’m afraid it wont be very regularly. Finally, if you are interested, there are a few haphazard inclusion/exclusion notes at the end of the piece.

Agamben, Giorgio, Means without End

Allen, Lori, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights

Arendt, Hannah, Origins of Totalitarianism

Badiou, Alain, Ethics

Barreto Jose-Manuel, (ed), Human Rights from a Third World Perspective

Baxi, Upendra, Human Rights in a Post Human World

Baxi, Upendra, The Future of Human Rights

Belgrade Circle, (eds) The Politics of Human Rights

Bowring, Bill, The Degredation of the International Legal Order

Brown, Wendy, States of Injury


Campbell, Tom, The Left and Rights

Cheah, Pheng, Inhuman Conditions


Darian-Smith, Eve, Religion, Race, Rights

Davis, Benjamin P, Choose Your Bearing 

Dhawan, Nikita (ed.) Decolonizing Enlightment

Douzinas, Costas, & Gearty, Conor, (eds.), The Meanings of Rights

Douzinas, Costas, Human Rights and Empire

Douzinas, Costas, The End of Human Rights


Eckel, Jan & Moyn, Samuel, (eds.) The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s

Englund, Harri, Prisoners of Freedom

Evans, Tony, Human Rights in the Global Political Economy

Evans, Tony, The Politics of Human Rights


Golder, Ben, Foucault and the Politics of Rights

Goodale, Mark, Human Rights at the Crossroad

Goodale, Mark, Surrendering to Utopia

Grear, Anna, Redirecting Human Rights

Gundogdu, Ayten, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights


Halme, Miia, Human Rights in Action: Learning Expert Knowledge

Halme-Tuomisaari, Miia, & Slotte, Pamela, Revisiting the Origins of Human Rights

Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, Human rights in the twentieth century

Honig, Bonnie, Emergency Politics

Hopgood, Stephen, The Endtimes of Human Rights

Hunt, Alan, Rights and Social Movements: Counter-Hegemonic Strategies

Ife, Jim, Human Rights From Below


Kateb, George, Human Dignity

Kennedy, David, Dark Sides of Virtue

Keys, Barbra, Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s


Langlois, Anthony, The Politics of Justice and Human Rights

Lechte, John, & Newman, Saul, Agamben and the Politics of Human Rights

Lefebvre, Alexander, Human Rights as a Way of Life

Lefort, Claude, The Political Forms of Modern Society


Marx, Karl, On the Jewish Question

Meister, Robert, After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights

Merry, Sally Engle Human Rights and Gender Violence

Moyn, Samuel, Human Rights and the Uses of History

Moyn, Samuel, The Last Utopia

Mutua, Makau, Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique


O’Connell, Paul, Masking Barbarism: Human Rights in the Contemporary Global Order

O’Connell, Paul, Vindicating Socio-Economic Rights

Orford, Anne, Reading Humanitarian Intervention


Perugini, Nicola, & Gordon, Neve The Human Right to Dominate


Rajagopal, B, International Law from Below

Roberts, Christopher, The Contentious History of the International Bill of Human Rights

Rogers,Juliet, Law’s Cut on the Body of Human Rights


Shivji, Issa, The Concept of Human Rights in Africa

Shuler, Jack, Calling Out for Liberty

Slaughter, Joseph, Human Rights, Inc.

Speed, Shannon, Rights in Rebellion

Strauss, Leo, Natural Law and History


Vaneigem, Raoul, A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings


Wall, Illan rua, Human Rights and Constituent Power

Whyte, Jessica, Catastrophe and Redemption

Inclusion Notes

Firstly, I excluded ‘non-critical’ works. This is a very controversial question, for instance you won’t find Benhabib’s Dignity in Adversity (although it was suggested. I’m not going to say anything more about it for fear that this will turn into some sort of interminable definitional question about ‘what is critique’. If someone wants to do a more inclusive bibliography that takes in liberal, communitarian, and deliberative accounts then that is fine, but that is not the purpose of this list. The second difficult question was whether to include books where only a small part of the topic was human rights, like Lefort’s The Political Forms of Modern Society or Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. In the end, I included books where I thought their critiques were important to subsequent debates or were overlooked gems. I excluded where the books were really about other subjects, and human rights was just a small element that was being tied into the different subject or argument. I have generally avoided edited collections as well, with a few exceptions where there were important additions to the debate. There are no articles/blogs, but this is an additional (albeit massive) project that would be well worth undertaking – volunteers please be in contact and we can try to coordinate something.


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