All in the (Human) Family? Species Aristocratism in the Return of Human Dignity

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Human dignity is making a comeback. The essay focuses on the story that this comeback of human dignity presupposes and recasts. In that story, the “human family” is portrayed in terms of aristocratic dignitas. The consequences are twofold: (1) human dignity is co-implicated with the de-animalization of the human being; (2) once de-animalization is introduced, the story of human dignity cultivates an aristocratic sense of elevation of the human over other species, or what I will call “species aristocratism.” The fact that a new kind of aristocratism based on species emerges from the story of human dignity should concern us, I suggest, because it not only confronts us with unintended consequences of relying on human dignity as the foundation of human rights but also invites us to rethink our contemporary egalitarian, democratic ethos, understood as aristocracy for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-771
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Theory
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • animal
  • aristocratism
  • dignity
  • human
  • species


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