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Julie Saada (Sciences Po Paris, France)

Julie Saada is a professor of philosophy at Sciences Po Paris, and vice-president of the French branch of the IVR. Her research focus is on the history and ethics of war and postwar justice, the history and philosophy of international law, international criminal justice, and human rights. Issues of modern and contemporary political philosophy, critical legal theory, and law and literature have also been central topics of her study. She passed the Agrégation examination and holds a Ph.D. and a Habilitation in Philosophy from the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon.
She is co-director of the “PolitiqueS” series (Classiques Garnier publishing) and the “Penser avec” series (Sciences Po publishing) and is in charge of the Legal Humanities research program at Sciences Po. She has also been elected to the National Universities Council. Professor Saada has participated in various international research projects and has been a visiting professor or researcher in Argentina (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Mar del Plata), Uruguay, Russia (RUDN), United States (Columbia, Cardozo School of Law), Finland, Tunisia (Ecole normale supérieure), Algeria, Israel, Brazil, and Lebanon.
Her published works on the philosophy of international law, war, and international criminal justice include Guerre juste, guerre injuste. Histoire, theories, critiques (Just war, unjust war. History, theories, critiques, with C. Nadeau, 2009); La justice pénale internationale face aux crimes de masse (International Criminal Justice and Mass Crimes, with R. Nollez-Goldbach, 2014); Enseigner le passé violent. Conflit, après-conflit et justice à l’école (Teaching the Violent Past. War, post-war and justice at School, 2014); La guerre en question. Conflits contemporains, théorie politique et débats normatifs (On War. Contemporary Conflicts, Political Theory, and Normative Perspectives, 2015). Her books on political philosophy and critical legal theory involve La tolérance (On Toleration, 1999); Hobbes, Spinoza ou les politiques de la Parole (Hobbes, Spinoza and the Politics of Scripture, 2009); Hobbes et le sujet de droit (Hobbes and the Subject of Law, 2010); Le souci du droit. Où en est la théorie critique? (Caring About the Law. What About Critical Theory Today? 2010), Le droit, entre théorie et critique (Law, between Theory and Critique, with M. Xifaras, 2016).

Three Dialectics of Human Rights
Julie Saada
I will analyze human rights from both historical and normative perspectives, focusing on three dialectical movements that characterize them. I will emphasize the interdependence of civil-political and socio-economic rights.

The dialectic of the original productivity of human rights refers to the historical and intellectual movement that culminated in the French Revolution's Rights of Man and of the Citizen. While individual rights were proclaimed as opposable to the sovereign, it was also through the absolutization of the sovereign’s authority that collective medieval legal forms were dissolved in favor of the individualization of rights. Subjective rights were thus constituted by a transformation of the legal subject, whose rights became opposable to power, and by a transformation of power, which granted rights to subjects. This movement led to what I term a 'right to life beyond life,' meaning a life transcending mere biological existence as it embodies the equal freedom of legal subjects. The right to life beyond life thus denotes the right to a particular political condition. However, this initial dialectic gives rise to two contradictions:

1- Freedom is conceptualized as negative and individualistic, while the Declaration formulates economic and social rights that have been extensively developed in international Declarations and Conventions on human rights. Conceived as a right to a particular social condition, these rights focus on the material conditions necessary to realize freedom, emphasizing a collective dimension that presupposes social redistribution and solidarity mechanisms that states must ensure. This contradiction produces what I term a dialectic of the continuous production of human rights. Overcoming the contradiction between the two forms of freedom and the types of rights that constitute them can be achieved by establishing an interdependent relationship between rights. Individual freedom, as expressed in civil and political rights, can only be realized by promoting collective forms of freedom and rights. Thus, the right to life beyond life becomes not only a right to a particular political condition but also a right to a specific social condition, understood as a means of attaining freedom.

2- Even when rights to a social condition are acknowledged, human rights remain abstract. Their general and indeterminate formulation is a prerequisite for their potential universalization. The contradiction lies in the fact that rights, which establish a right to life as a right to a specific political and social condition, are detached from what individuals and communities can actually do with them. They only become concrete rights when specified to particular agents in specific contexts, facilitated by specific implementation processes. Paradoxically, the universal formulation aims to render these rights locally interpretable and adaptable, creating a dialectic between the universal and the particular. The capabilities approach to human rights provides a means to verify that specific rights correspond to abstract rights and fulfill them, which is an essential condition of human dignity.