Saving human rights from its friends : a critique of the imaginary justice of Costas Douzinas
journal contributionposted on 2003-12-01, 00:00 authored by John Morss
Costas Douzinas has argued that human rights arise from a universal but unconscious need for recognition of oneself by others as unique and whole. According to Douzinas, humans' activities and interrelationships are determined by their desires and human rights are a manifestation of those same deep characteristics. Because the basic desires are by their nature incapable of being satisfied, the aspiration for human rights is likewise doomed to frustration. Douzinas' analysis of human nature is derived from a reading of Jacques Lacan's theory of psychoanalysis in which an imaginary and a symbolic realm of experience are defined. Douzinas attempts a synthesis between the Lacanian imaginary and the ethical arguments of Emmanuel Levinas. It will be argued here that the synthesis proposed by Douzinas is itself doomed to failure and that Douzinas' negative approach to human rights and to justice should be rejected in favour of a positive approach.