Foucault and the Politics of Rights. By Ben Golder. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. 246 pp. $24.95 cloth.

Date01 September 2016
Published date01 September 2016
cannot be explained on simple ideological terms. Once understood
as an admixture of different interests, coalitions, and strategies that
evolve over the course of American governance and political time,
retrenchment exacts a cost that is not only substantial, but ironic. All
too often the original goals of reform efforts that seek to increase
judicial access for the politically disadvantaged in the rights revolu-
tion have been undermined by the behind-the-scenes practices of
subsequently denying it by manipulating the institutional rules and
processes that govern judicial access and rights or remedies. In
advancing her theory, Staszak successfully navigates beyond conven-
tional studies in American political development that arguably
remain isolated in describing the effects of Supreme Court doctrine
within a myopic interpretation of judicial institutions and American
political development. In doing so, Staszak makes a significant con-
tribution to the law and courts literature by powerfully reminding
us that the arcane realm of jurisdictional rules of courts and proce-
dure is often the proving ground, and substantive foundation, for
securing litigant access to courts and justice.
Foucault and the Politics of Rights. By Ben Golder. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2015. 246 pp. $24.95 cloth.
Reviewed by George Pavlich, Canada Research Chair in Social
Theory, Culture and Law, and Professor of Law and Sociology,
University of Alberta
Nowadays, liberal political contexts revel in claims to universal
human rights. Their discourses tend to frame the latter as bulwarks
of individual freedom, preventing arbitrary coercion, detention,
torture and worse. Whiggish historical accounts cast rights as inevi-
table outcomes of social progress stretching back to ancient Greece
though the Enlightenment to mid-20th century declarations. But as
Moyn (2012: 3) notes, current understandings of human rights
depart significantly from past iterations; they emerged, “in the
1970s seemingly from nowhere.” Other critics (Brown, Butler, Ran-
`re) echo the contingency here implied, reframing debates to
focus on how rights might explicitly constrain rulers.
Referencing these critics, Golder explores Foucault’s evocations
of rights in his later analyses of political struggles, aiming to unearth
a “critical politics of rights” that is “anti-foundationalist, non-
Book Reviews 811

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