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After sovereignty: what is left of subjective rights?

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Catherine Colliot-Thélène (Université Rennes 1)

The notion of subjective rights is a modern concept. Its consistency has been put into question by a series of authors (Michel Villey, Vincent Descombes). The idea that an individual in his or her role as a human being can appeal to rights is an aspect of modern individualism. By starting from (and inverting) an hypothesis of Michel Foucault concerning the relationship between individualization and power and by referring to various aspects of Max Weber’s Sociology of Law, the present article proposes to see the emergence of the juridical individual in relationship with the emergence of the modern sovereign state, i.e. with the abolition of the privileges of the estatist society. The erosion of state sovereignty, especially as a result of the development of juridical pluralism on the international level, a pluralism which seems to resist to all attempts at hierarchical reorganization, raises the question of the future of this form of a juridical subject in the framework of the present political evolution. The future of democracy is at stake here, to the extent that in its modern form for individuals it is essential to rely on their rights being recognized and guaranteed independent of social status and belonging.