Public Rights, Private Relations

ISBN : 9780199677733

Jean Thomas
288 Pages
158 x 237 mm
Pub date
May 2015
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The abuse of workers in export processing zones in developing countries, the undignified treatment of elderly people in care homes, and the dangers for internet users' privacy arising from private companies' control of their data are prominent examples of how our most fundamental interests are increasingly jeopardized by powerful private actors. Jean Thomas argues that, while these interests are protected by human and constitutional rights in relation to the state, no similar protections exist in relations among private actors. To address this problem, she develops a theoretical framework for the application of human and constitutional rights among private actors. The author proposes a theory of private liability for public rights violations that allows us to answer the question: who should bear the duties associated with human and constitutional rights in the private sphere? And what do private actors owe one another in respect of the interests protected by these rights? In advancing a model of rights that makes the application of public rights among private actors morally plausible and institutionally feasible, the book also illuminates the broader conceptual question of what rights are.


1. Setting the Scene
2. Moral Argument and Positive Law: A Method for Constructing a Model of Rights
3. Duelling Concepts in Rights Theory
4. Constraint and Value
5. A Model of Rights: From Rights Theory to Pubilc Law
6. Indeterminacy
7. Relationality in the Model of Rights
8. Relational Normativity
9. Relations of Dependency and the Model of Rights
10. The Model of Rights in Practice

About the author: 

Jean Thomas is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. After her JD (Juris Doctor) studies at the University of Toronto, she completed her JSD (Doctor of Juridicial Science) at New York University. She has been a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford's McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute. Thomas's research centres on questions of legal theory, rights theory in particular, and on interdisciplinary questions of legal, political, and moral philosophy.

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