Regarding rights for the Other: abolitionism and human rights from below

Scott, David (2016). Regarding rights for the Other: abolitionism and human rights from below. In: Weber, Leanne; Fishwick, Elaine and Marmo, Marinella eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 50–62.



The language of human rights is a commonplace one for those actively engaged in emancipatory struggles against inequality, domination and state power, and it has a long association with penal abolitionism. Penal abolitionists question the moral and political legitimacy of the current application of the penal rationale (punishment) and call for alternative ways of handling interpersonal conflicts within a fairer and more egalitarian society. The language of rights has been championed by a number of penal abolitionists, most notably Stanley Cohen and Barbara Hudson. For Stanley Cohen (1994) human rights are a defensive strategy creating legal safeguards and protections against violations of dignity whilst at the same time facilitating a progressive utopian vision of social transformation. For Barbar Hudson (2003) human rights are absolutely necessary to protect the common humanity of those people whose behaviour we find repugnant or are unable to empathize with. Not all penal abolitionists share such enthusiasm for human rights, especially legal rights, and this chapter explores the commitment to rights in four "abolitionist human rights schools" (Dembour 2006, Weber et al. 2014)

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