Volume 112, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244



The question if rights can be used in addressing gender-based oppression is at the center of recent debates in feminist theory. On the one hand, post-structuralist critiques have argued that differentiated rights, aimed at redressing injustices, reify the identity of oppressed groups (Brown 2000). On the other hand, proponents of differentiated rights have argued that these should be understood social-phenomenologically, as enabling social agents to counteract their oppression (Young 2011; McNay 2010). This paper argues in favor for the latter position while taking seriously the concern with regard to social identity articulated by the former. I do so by comparing Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault on the relation between resistance and rights. Starting from the observation that Arendt and Foucault agree on the need for a new law that can curtail the destructive dynamics of late-modernity, I argue that their account of resistance ascribes great importance to rights. Discussing the two authors in turn, I focus on two parallel themes. Firstly, confronted with the fight against anti-Semitic persecution (Arendt) and the struggle against governmental techniques (Foucault), they invoke rights against the near-total domination by late-modern states. Secondly, reflecting on how freedom practices require relationships with others in which one can develop one’s individual uniqueness, they hint towards rights that consolidate these relationships, of which friendship is the paradigmatic example. In conclusion, I return to the feminist debate on differential rights to show how Young’s model of communicative democracy is influenced by and is an instance of the relational rights that can be found in Arendt and Foucault.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): feminism; Hannah Arendt; Iris Marion Young; Michel Foucault; oppression; resistance; rights
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