Law and Philosophy

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 155–168 | Cite as

Law and Institutional Legitimacy in the Practice of Human Rights

  • Erin I. KellyEmail author


The Heart of Human Rights develops an account of human rights as legal entities that serve important moral purposes in a legitimate international human rights practice. This paper examines Allen Buchanan’s general concept of institutional legitimacy and aims to expand that concept by emphasizing its connection with several ideas developed in the book about the nature and function of a system of international human rights. When it incorporates those ideas, Buchanan’s ‘Metacoordination View’ can be seen to set a standard of legitimacy not only for assessments of an international scheme of human rights institutions, but also for the basic institutional structures of domestic states. Furthermore, we can see how the nature and function of human rights in the international practice of human rights bears on legitimacy assessments of particular domestic institutions.


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For comments and suggestions, I am grateful to Allen Buchanan, Michael Lister, Brooke Akerly, Mathias Risse, William Talbott, the editors of Law and Philosophy, and members of the audience, Author Meets Critic session, Pacific APA, Vancouver, April 2015. Funding was provided by Tufts University (US).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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