Interest and identity: Joseph Raz on collective rights
In this paper, I present Joseph Raz’s account of collective rights (1986) and take issue with some aspects of it. Raz claims that a right exists when someone’s interest is a sufficient ground for holding someone else to be under a duty. In this view, both individuals and groups qualify for being right-holders. I first give a brief summary of Raz’s conception of rights. Drawing on Christian List and Philip Pettit’s theory of group agency (2011) I then put forward an objection against conceiving groups as artificial agents and, therefore, as potential right-holders. After defending Raz’s account as being based on the notion of interest rather than agency, I turn to the question of what other features, if any, groups should possess in order to count as right-holders, by looking at the way in which collective rights arise from individual interests. I finally argue that, by grounding the concept of rights almost exclusively on the existence of interests, Raz’s theory does not give enough weight to the notions of shared culture and identity, which seem to be precisely what certain group rights are meant to protect.