Human Rights and Individual Liberty

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry’s famous cry resonates deeply with modern liberal democratic citizens. Individual liberty and the closely associated notion of human rights have become essential measures of political legitimacy in the contemporary era, especially since the Second World War. However, they have been forcefully asserted and defended by philosophers and by political actors for centuries. Given their long pedigree, why is it that discourses of individual liberty and human rights remain among the most contentious of political discourses? Life in a political community necessarily entails certain limits on what individuals can and cannot do. How should we determine the proper extent of individual liberty? What does it mean to assert a right? What are the foundations of human rights? Are human rights truly universal, or are they, in fact, impositions of a hegemonic liberal culture? Are there any group-differentiated rights? If so, how should we resolve conflicts between human rights and group-differentiated rights? What happens when competing individual human rights conflict? How, and by whom, should human rights be enforced? What are the international obligations of states with regard to safeguarding human rights?

The Department of Political Science at Carleton offers a wide range of opportunities for studying individual liberty and human rights. Students will develop both the philosophical vocabulary and the practical knowledge to analyse questions concerning the foundations, extent, and safeguarding of individual liberty and human rights, philosophically, domestically, and internationally.

Select Courses Include

PSCI 1100  Democracy in Theory and Practice
PSCI 1501  Politics of Migration
PSCI 2302  History of Political Thought II
PSCI 2602  International Relations: Global Political Economy
PSCI 3109  The Politics of Law and Morality
PSCI 3200  U.S. Constitutional Politics
PSCI 3205  Mexican Politics
PSCI 3307  Politics of Human Rights
PSCI 3312  Enlightenment Political Thought
PSCI 3802  Globalization and Human Rights
PSCI 3805  Politics of Race
PSCI 4109  The Politics of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
PSCI 4206  Indigenous Politics of North America
PSCI 4403  Reproductive Rights Policy in North America

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Select Recent Publications

Sophie Marcotte Chénard, ‘Is Collingwood a Historicist? Remarks on Leo Strauss’s Critique of Collingwood’s Philosophy of History‘, Journal of the Philosophy of History, Vol.11, no. 3 (2017).

Marc Hanvelt, ‘Politeness, a Plurality of Interests, and the Public Realm: Hume on the liberty of the press’ in History of Political Thought, Vol.33, no.4 (2012).

W.R. Newell, ‘Heidegger on Freedom and Community: some political implications of his early thought’, American Political Science Review, September 1984.

Farhang Rajaee, Globalization on Trial: the Human Condition and the Information Civilization. Ottawa: IDRC and West Hartford Ct: Kumerian, 2000.

Fiona Robinson, ‘Human Rights and the Global Politics of Resistance: feminist perspectives’, Review of International Studies, Vol.29, no. 1 (2003).