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Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power, Clifford Bob

Reviewed by Ana Bracic

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Can rights be used strategically, for belligerent purposes? In Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power, Clifford Bob considers this question and writes about rights as means, not an end. That is, sidestepping the well-established focus on how individuals and groups struggle to attain rights or protect themselves from repression, Bob turns to the question of how rights are used as tools in all manners of political objectives. As the objectives are varied, so, too, are the actors who use rights appeals to pursue them—they range from individual activists, political party leaders, and government officials of all political persuasions to organized groups and states as a whole. With a focus on this understudied dimension, Rights as Weapons provides a theoretical contribution to the study of rights, explaining how appeals to rights are not always what they seem and might, under certain circumstances, not only justify oppression but also contribute to it.

Bob is not the first to write about such uses of rights; in Contested Truths: Keywords in American Politics since Independence, for example, Daniel Rodgers writes that appeals to rights have long been used instrumentally in American politics.

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