The Rights of Others

The Rights of Others examines the boundaries of political community by focusing on political membership - the principles and practices for incorporating aliens and strangers, immigrants and newcomers, refugees and asylum seekers into existing polities. Boundaries define some as members, others as aliens. But when state sovereignty is becoming frayed, and national citizenship is unravelling, definitions of political membership become much less clear. Indeed few issues in world politics today are more important, or more troubling. In her Seeley Lectures, the distinguished political theorist Seyla Benhabib makes a powerful plea, echoing Immanuel Kant, for moral universalism and cosmopolitan federalism. She advocates not open but porous boundaries, recognising both the admittance rights of refugees and asylum seekers, but also the regulatory rights of democracies. The Rights of Others is a major intervention in contemporary political theory, of interest to large numbers of students and specialists in politics, law, philosophy and international relations.

• Engages with one of the most important political issues of today. Particularly relevant for the European Union and the US • Up-to-date, drawing on current and recent events • Presents a substantial argument, drawing on political philosophy, to provoke a broader and deeper response to this subject


Introduction; 1. On hospitality: rereading Kant’s cosmopolitan doctrine; 2. ‘The right to have rights’: Hannah Arendt and the contradictions of the nation-state; 3. The law of peoples, distributive justice and migrations; 4. Transformations of citizenship: the case of the European Union; 5. Democratic iterations: the local, the national and the global; Conclusion; References; Index.


\'Every so often one comers across a gem of a book that is thought-provoking; this is one such volume … its primary value lies in the manner in which it encourages the reader to think about changing perceptions of the world and its citizens … this book was a prize winner in the North American Society for Social Philosophy\'s Awards 2004. it deserves to be read widely.\' Ethnopolitics

‘Benhabib’s The Rights of Others shows - unflinchingly, astutely and bravely - that immigration remains such a pitched battle in the West because it is part of a larger war of ideas.’ The Nation

‘Benhabib’s book does political theory great service: it attends to the consequences of the empirical realities of the “fraying of state sovereignty” and the \'disaggregation or unbundling of citizenship\', and it makes an impassioned, theoretically substantiated plea for the “need to decriminalize the worldwide movement of peoples, and treat each person, whatever his or her political citizenship status, in accordance with the dignity of moral personhood.\' Political Theory

‘… an important contribution to the literature on global justice, offering a promising defense of the cosmopolitan ideal of porous (if not open) borders.’ Human Rights Review

\'The value of Benhabib’s The Rights of Others is in fostering discourse between the theories underlying our political and ethical order and the needs of migrants … Hers is a bold statement to theorists that engagement is needed with people as yet neglected in their work… A bold contribution to a dialogue central to refugee studies.’ Journal of Refugee Studies

\'With this book, Benhabib has done philosophers and political theorists an important service by directing our attention to a crucial issue of global justice; her incisive analysis will no doubt set the stage for the debate that should by all rights follow.’ Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

‘… a rare and remarkable combination of informed political theorizing and contemporary empirical application to real world challenges.’ Dario Castiglione, University of Exeter

‘… an important and compelling attempt to connect developments in political theory with efforts to extend citizen rights and protections.’ Gerald Mara, Georgetown University