Harold Joseph Laski theory of right's?


Different definitions of rights touch but partial aspects of what rights are. Jefferson's declaration that the men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights was one which indicated the naturalness of rights, i.e., men have rights because they are, by nature, human beings. Those men (including women) have rights or that they should have rights is a fact no one would like to dispute. But this fact does not state anything more or less than that. There is no definition stated in this fact.

Holland defines rights as "one man" capacity of influencing the act of others, not by his own strength of the society." His definition describes rights, as a man's activities blessed by the society which means that Holland is describing rights only as a social claim. That there are other aspects of rights in a definition of rights has not been given due place. Wilde, in his definition of rights gives a casual treatment to the social claim aspect when he says: "A right is a reasonable claim to freedom in the exercise of certain activities."

Bosanquet and Laski, in their definitions of rights, include the positions of society, and state and man's personality, but they too ignore the important aspects of 'duty' as a part of 'rights'. Bosanquet says, "A right is a claim recognized by society and enforced by the state". According to Laski, "Rights are those conditions of social life without which no man can seek, in general, to be himslef at his best."

Harold Laski's Theory

Harold Laski (1983-1950), a theoretician of the English Labour Party and a Political Scientist in his own right, has his definite views on the system of rights as expounded in his A Grammarof Politics (first published in 1925 and then revised almost every second year).

Laski's views on the nature of rights run as follows: (1) they are social conditions, given to the individual as a member of the society; (ii) they help promote individual personality, his best-self: 'those social conditions without any man can seek to be his best self'; (iii) they are social because they are never against social welfare; they were not there before the emergencies of society; (iv) the state only recognize and protects rights by maintaining them; (v) rights are never absolute: absolute rights are a contradiction in terms; (vi) they are dynamic in nature in so far as their contents change according to place, time and conditions; (vii) they go along with duties; in fact, duties are prior to rights; the exercise of rights implies the exercise of duties.

If Laski were to give rights to the individual, he would give them in this order: right to work, right to be paid adequate wages, right to reasonable hours of labour, right to education, right to choose one's governors, followed by other rights. Laski's argument is that without granting economic rights first, an individual cannot enjoy his political rights: political liberty is meaningless without economic equality: 'where there are great inequalities, the relationship between men is that of the master and the slave'. Equally important, but lower in order is the right to education: education alone helps an individual exercise these other rights properly. With the economic and social (education rights) at one's disposal, there is a greater likelihood of the individual exercising his political rights in the right earnestness.

Rights are of numerous kinds. Those rights which are available to human beings include: right to life, equality, security of person and property, freedom, education, work, freedom of religion, to vote, to hold public office. The liberal democratic societies lay more emphasis on personal and political rather than economic and social rights. The socialist societies advocate the opposite arrangement of rights. Laski, as liberal leaning towards the Left, considers rights essential for individual development but grants economic rights followed by social and political rights.