Although a thriving social science literature in citizenship has emerged in the past two decades, to date there exists neither a sociology of rights nor a sociology of human rights. Theoretical obstacles include the association of rights with the philosophical discourse of normativity, the abstraction of universalism, and the individualism attributed to rights-bearers. Parallel historical obstacles dating from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 include American exceptionalism and racism, cultural relativism, the institutional primacy of sovereignty, and the privileging of civil rights over socioeconomic rights. Except in the United States, today human rights discourse is the lingua franca of global struggles*; building a sociology of rights as a collective project is now imperative. This article unearths and reconstructs 60 years of political clashes, intellectual debates, and struggles for inclusion and recognition surrounding human rights and citizenship—much of which has been hidden from history (especially African American human rights movements). We introduce a nascent but uncoordinated social science attention to rights and develop criteria for a new sociology of rights. At the nexus of human rights and citizenship rights we identify the public good of a “right to have rights,” which expresses the institutional, social, and moral preconditions for human recognition and inclusion. The concept offers a promising avenue of social science inquiry.

[Erratum, Closure]

An erratum has been published for this article:
Toward a New Sociology of Rights: A Genealogy of “Buried Bodies” of Citizenship and Human Rights

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Supplemental Material

Supplementary Data

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error