The Population and the Individual: The Human Rights Audit as the Governmentalization of Global Human Rights Governance

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Abstract

Human rights are increasingly the justification and rationale for techniques of measurement, verification, assessment, monitoring, and review. These different forms of auditing operate across fields and engage many different actors—states, international organizations, and multinational firms—as both subjects and auditors alike. It is, then, plausible to describe the global governance of human rights as becoming increasingly characterized by a culture of auditing. This article argues that this tendency is the result of certain systemic characteristics which produce what Foucault describes as governmental rationalities or “governmentality”: attempts to conduct the conduct of actors who are ostensibly autonomous, through programmatic manipulation of conditions. Human rights auditing, in other words, is a governmental technique that arises almost inevitably from the structure of the international human rights system. The article argues that the governmentalization of global human rights governance that results from the proliferation of auditing has the effect of producing what Foucault described as the “fundamental caesura” between individual and population. The individual diminishes as a source of concern and certainly as an active agent, and is replaced by a primary focus among the powerful on monitoring, measuring, and manipulating the population for benign ends. This has the effect of denuding human rights of the radical potential they possess.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1073-1100
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Constitutional Law
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2019

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