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The politics of civil societyBig society and small government$
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Fred Powell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781447307150

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447307150.001.0001

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Rights talk, new social movements and civic revolts

Rights talk, new social movements and civic revolts

(p.142) (p.143) Six Rights talk, new social movements and civic revolts
The politics of civil society

Fred Powell

Policy Press

Chapter 6 moves beyond liberal notions of human rights based upon the protection of the individual. The UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was a landmark in protecting citizens from tyranny whose importance cannot be overstated. But there is another tradition of human rights, dating back to Tom Paine’s Rights of Man (1791 - 1792) that links human rights to moral protest and democratic struggle to create a ‘civilised society’. In this chapter is argued that dissident struggles and social movements have become the collective expressions of ‘rights talk’, in which citizens have created (1) an alternative democratic space to Parliament as a top-down model of democracy; (2) a bottom-up forum, based upon multiple counter-publics, continuously seeking to renegotiate power relations and; (3) through the influence of civic insurrections in 1989 and 2011, changed the democratic narrative. This is a vital manifestation of civil society in terms of the collective expression of human rights in the tradition of radical humanism.

Keywords:   rights talk, new social movements, civic revolts, velvet revolutions, democracy

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