Human Rights and the Care of the Self.

AuthorMuhammad, Patricia M.
PositionBook review

Lefebvre, Alexandre, Human Rights and the Care of the Self. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2018. x + 264 pages. Hardcover, $26.95.

Alexandre Lefebvre, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, undertakes two primary approaches concerning the necessity of human rights in the modern age; one based on an individual level and the other based in society. Individually, human rights are the primary avenue through which a person cultivates and protects him or herself against and within the public at large. According to Lefebvre, the more each person uses the ideology of human rights to cultivate, and eventually manifest the best version of her or himself, the more support for the rule of law in a democratic society. However, Lefebvre indicates that the surge of western individualism can serve as an obstacle to such development, and is exactly the plague that Alexis de Tocqueville lambasted. In contrast, the author asserts that the pursuit of human rights should serve as a constructive measure which ultimately benefits individuals, or members of vulnerable populations, under the rule of law.

Professor Lefebvre delves into the ideals of philosopher Michel Foucalt, who defined morality based in moral code and moral conduct. According to Foucalt, moral codes are values recommended to individuals in civil society through "prescriptive agencies," typically a form of government. Moral conduct is a body of "prescribed rules and principles" of morality and oral conduct in relation to the precepts that comprise the code. The latter is based in natural law, spiritual or philosophical ideology, and correlates with enacted legislation governing the entire society. Lefebvre interprets Foucalt's standards for caring for oneself as being synonymous with transforming oneself.

Here, the focus shifts into the philosophical nature of the care of self with the ancient understanding that personal-care is a "self-sufficient moral end." Such a concept can only be achieved when the individual exercises the freedom and choice to care for her or himself. Additionally, the author maintains that one's ability to properly care for her or himself can only be presumed if the person(s) reside in a civilized society where it is customarily acceptable for she or he to do so. Therefore, the author concludes that human rights are a societal burden, one that is representative of democracy and civilization, and cultivates an environment wherein such rights can be...

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