Do Anarchists Support "Rights"?

Pëtr Kropotkin: (source)

This is what these so-called liberties can be reduced to. Freedom of press and of meeting, inviolability of home and all the rest, are only respected if the people do not make use of them against the privileged classes. But the day the people begin to take advantage of them to undermine those privileges, the so-called liberties will be cast overboard.

This is quite natural. Humanity retains only the rights it has won by hard struggle and is ready to defend at every moment, with arms in hand.


fortifiedmischief: (source)

"Rights" by definition, come from an authority -- "a higher being" -- and I think that when you take authority out of the question you're left with the pure need or desire, as you say, to act a certain way, be a certain way... live a certain way. And at the end of the day, that's all we're left with. There is no universal law that declares I have the right to eat and drink, but I damn DESIRE IT. And even though it takes away the plushy illusion bestowed by the idea of rights... of having an unassailable entitlement to basic survival needs, it's high time people show the same respect for each other's NEED/DESIRE to eat as they would anyone's "RIGHT" to eat. 


ziq: (source)

An extension of the class system, societies draw clear lines between people with rights and people without them: Migrants versus citizens, educated versus uneducated, homeless versus homed, convicts versus non-convicts, men versus women, white versus non-white.

Governments create rights so they can meter them out to certain segments of the population, pitting everyone against each other in a vicious competition for civil liberties and economic prosperity. So long as everyone has to fight for their place in the world, they'll have no time or energy to fight the system that creates and enforces these gross inequalities. [...]

The entire concept of legal rights depends on a state denying you all the possible freedoms they can think of, but then permitting you to file the paperwork to reclaim a few largely inconsequential ones. [...]

In a relationship of ruler and obeyer, they have all the power: They decide what is and isn't a right and what does and doesn't violate the right. The people with the power can rewrite reality at will, they can torture you to death and never admit what they did to you was torture. The United States calls their torture of prisoners of war ”enhanced coercive interrogation techniques”. That's really all it takes to bypass rights: a person in power using craven euphemisms when they torture their prisoners. If slavery is against rights then they can just say 'inmate' rather than 'slave' and it's all good. [...]

Neither natural rights nor legal rights are compatible with anarchy because anarchy recognizes no authority. Anarchists reject the power our rulers grant themselves to decide which privileges to bestow on the groups and individuals who are able and willing to meet their strict standards, and which privileges to deny.

No one should have the power to stand on a pedestal and decree to us what we do and don't deserve, what we can say and can't say, when we get to eat and where we ought to sleep. [...]

(Click to read full essay)


subrosa: (source)

Rights are building blocks of governmental, legal and moral systems, made up of enforceable claims and the dividing lines of general categories.

Whether we use positive or negative terms for our claims, rights appear as attempts in law-making: What is right can be enforced and generalized, what can be generalized and enforced is right.

In horizontal relations, I find such claims pretty insulting in their stubborn disregard for contextual particularities and for other options. They can function as threats, but more certainly create barriers for conflict resolution and mutual understanding.

Approaching anarchy, we wouldn't want to need any rights.


CaptainACAB: (source)

Rights are a concept that suffers under little to no critique in comparison to others; which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that many anarchists don't critique the concept of rights at all. Many people are anarchists because they believe in rights and they believe that anarchism is the best way to secure rights to as many different people as possible. Rights were (and probably still are, to an extent) believed to be given to every human being by a "God" (I won't get into that argument); rights are widely "enforced" and regulated by the state: in their current form, rights are little more than government-granted "permissions" that can be given, changed, or revoked at the whim of those who rule.

At the absolute best (i.e, the least haunted), rights would little more than guidelines for how people would interact with one another under an "anarchist society"; like etiquette, with unofficial social sanctions being the punishment for breaking them. Depending on your views, this could also be seen as undesirable; because it's still a concept to be beholden to. Rights would either have no power (an abstract without power doesn't need to be followed, so it's just a superfluous "thing" that people believe in) or have a very "unofficial" sense of power (an abstract that people obey regardless of whether or not it fulfills their ego out of fear of punishment).

At worst (i.e, the most haunted), rights would essentially be laws (or morals, or virtues) under a different name; with it's own set of enforcers, prisons, and power structures; under the same conditions of being mutable to those with the power to arbitrate what "is" and what "isn't" within the acceptable realm of rights.


existential1: (source)

Rights are simply ideas that are used to modify or codify preferred behavior. I think your critique of rights is more suited to a conversation about how the rights were agreed upon and enforced moreso than if they are necessary at all.

Nothing is necessary unless you want a specific outcome. Eating isnt necessary, unless i want to live. Being monogamous isn't necessary, unless I want to be with someone who believes that it is and won't be with someone who isn't.

In that vein, rights are just a tool for a group of people to observe collectively accepted behaviors. Again, they can be poor tools if the rights are defined and reaffirmed infrequently or people are subjected to them who never had ample opportunity to meaningfully voice concerns about them. But there's nothing inherently good or bad about them. They are just tools.


polpotisevil2: (source)

A right is something granted to you by a higher authority or power. A right is a concept fundamentally against the individual, because it means there is some other power, society, government, king, or whatever else, restricting that individual to their "rights"


ComradeTucker: (source)

Natural rights are a meme. Someone had to declare that they had natural, inalienable rights that should be respected, and everyone around them decided to believe they had them too, and that there was some moral consequence for violating them. If nobody believed in the concept of natural rights, there would be no rights to violate or consequences for violating them. In liberal societies, the state claims to reserve the right to punish those who violate the natural rights of others, and legal rights emerge from that. Don't get me wrong - I like this meme, and think it's a good fundamental concept for building societies without state oppression, but if the state or some other actor decides I don't have natural rights, well, then I suppose don't, because natural rights don't stop bullets.


aiwendil: (source)

Rights are just ideas, they are meaningless when somebody gives them to you and then strips them from you at will. There really is no such thing as rights, just like borders and money, they are imaginary and as soon as you choose to live outside of those fantasy worlds, you can begin to be free. Unfortunately militarized governments that have declared a monopoly on violence use tangible, real world resources to enforce these imaginary ideas. I would like to reject these ideas out right, but one can only do that to some degree and still manage survive and thrive in this world. Governments will criminalize any lifestyle that avoids it's control.

The main reason I despise the idea of rights is that they contribute to jingoist rhetoric.

“Freedom!- is the fatuous jingle of our civilization, but only those deprived of it have the barest inkling of what the stuff actually is.” -David Mitchell

People can go on about how great it is to have freedom of speech, when if you've been paying attention, even just intermittently it is impossible to fail to notice how eroded these "right," have gotten. I mean, you have the right to speak freely, but what you say can be used against you in court or in the media to destroy you. That is not really freedom. I do believe that all actions have consequences in a broad sense, but when the government is manufacturing consequences for using your "rights," they cease to be rights and become privileges afforded to certain cross sections of society, based largely on incumbency to wealth, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc...


Aragorn Eloff: (source)

There is no one clear definition of rights, but they are generally understood to be a set of nomological (i.e., law-, principle-, or rule-based) normative principles about the freedoms and entitlements accruing to people within a particular social arrangement (most often a nation state or, occasionally, a supra-national collection of states). These rights are most often divided into supposedly perennial moral/natural rights (e.g, the right to life) and contingent legal/civil rights (e.g., the specific rights held by citizens of a particular state). They are also divided into positive and negative rights/freedoms: negative rights are rights not to be subjected to something (the right not to be submitted to random searches, the right not to be asked for identification when in a public space, i.e., freedom from) whereas positive rights are the right to something (the right to water and electricity, the right to housing, the right to free healthcare). Embedded within normativity but not always made explicit is the assumption that both any given norm and the underlying reasoning that led to its emergence is universalizable or categorical, i.e., that the norm applies equally to people in all cases said to be comparable in relevant ways by this reasoning.

Moral/natural rights, the most fundamental rights said to accrue to people, usually appeal to some or other form of Kantian-style thought and thus reproduce some of the assumptions of the Kantian moral framework: humanism, universalism, the self-identical, transcendental, reasoning subject with a priori pure intuitions of time and space and so forth. Within this Enlightenment-style framework, morality is seen as an abstract discourse with timeless foundations and universally applicable claims. [...]

Rights, to the extent that it operates on normative interpretations of humanity, itself seeks a further monopoly through which it can impose a humanist, imperialist, neo-colonialist view of the subject and subjectivity, even though historically it is this exact identity that was imposed on colonized others (both external, through ‘civilizing’ missions and internal, through the humanist, universalist declarations, charters and bills of rights that follow each ‘revolution’) in the services of Empire, justifying ‘enslavement, atrocities, and even annihilation as strategies’ (Douzinas 2013) whereby the savage other is brought into the fold of liberal Enlightened humanity. This has continued to the current day, perhaps most notably in the US’s noble ‘bringing of human rights’ to the Middle East and various other ‘underdeveloped’ peoples, this despite that fact that ‘the idea of humanity has no fixed meaning and cannot act as the source of moral or legal rules. Historically, the idea has been used to classify people into the fully human, the lesser human, and the inhuman. If humanity is the normative source of moral and legal rules, do we know what humanity is?’.

(View source to read full essay).