This article offers a critical engagement with Claude Lefort's arguments
about human rights. According to Lefort, eighteenth-century declarations
of rights render the notion of "humanity" indeterminable and open it to
continuous reinterpretation in democratic struggles. Lefort develops this
argument by confronting Karl Marx's critique of the Rights of Man in
"On the Jewish Question." Arguing against Marx, Lefort insists that human
rights can be reinterpreted time and again precisely because they are
assigned not to a concrete subject but instead to an abstract one. Lefort's
account illuminates the "theatre of contestation" that human rights set up
in modern democracies; as new groups claim these rights and take them
in new directions, our existing conceptions of "humanity" and "rights"
undergo significant transformations. The goal of this critical intervention
is not to leave aside Lefort's crucial argument that human rights introduce
us to an indeterminable notion of "humanity".