PHEB604 Sovereignty and Human Rights


This course of lectures has a very important philosophical stake; its immanent logic is constructed around three critical points. First, to problematize the key preconditions on which the juridical theory of sovereignty rests. Second, to analyse the central elements that constitute biopolitics as a type of power, functioning parallel with disciplinary practices. And third, to make a sociological attempt to delineate the limits of validity of juridical rationality in contemporary societies by examining the relationship between biopolitics and sovereignty. What is important here is to get around this central problem of sovereignty and the obedience of individuals, and to reveal instead the problem of domination and subjugation. We should not orient our analysis of power toward the juridical system of sovereignty, state apparatuses, grand ideologies, but toward domination, forms of subjugation, practical dominations. This means studying power relations outside the field delineated by juridical sovereignty and analyzing them on the basis of the techniques of domination, concerning human rights.

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Prof. Martin Kanoushev, PhD

Course Description:


After completing successfully this course the students will:

1) know:

• The most important theoretical concepts and interconnections between them in the field of construction and public defence of human rights: Soverenity, biopolitics, discipline, power, violence, law, justice, subjectivity, human body, etc.

• The relevance of their applications in different historical and social contexts: early modern society; classical liberal society, late modern society; authoritarian society; totalitarian society; neoliberal versus poscommunist societies.

2) are capable of:

• To discuss competently classical philosophical, sociological and historical texts, concerning temporarily dynamic between social power and human rights.

• To verify the empirical evidences of sociologically relevant phenomena like social facts and tendentions, historical events and connections, everyday and discourse phenomenon, economic and political processes, etc.


Full-time Programmes

Types of Courses:

Language of teaching:


  1. Juridical model of sovereignty: structures and functions in modern society.
  2. Law and judicial institutions: system of connections and relations.
  3. Legal and/or legitimization: the question of practical domination.
  4. Sovereign and subject: forms of obligations and social organisation.
  5. Democratization of sovereignty: historical events and tendentions.
  6. Codified legislation: public discourse and intutitional frame.
  7. Right of sovereignty and mechanics of discipline: conditions of possibility.
  8. Discipline power: freedom, individual opposition and battle for influence.
  9. The problem of subjectivity: technics and methods of constant surveillance.
  10. Human bogy: torture, punishment, discipline, prison and concentration camp.
  11. Biopolitical power: social genesis and historical metamorphoses.
  12. Life and death: the question of capital punishment and life imprisonment.
  13. Human rights and national state: structures of segregation.
  14. Fields of biopolitical regulation: reproduction of population, life incapacity, illnesses and risks.
  15. The problem of euthanasia: human rights and contemporary medicine.


Agamben, G. (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, G. (2005) State of Exception. Translated by Kevin Attell. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Arendt, H. (1961) Between Past and Future: Six Exercises in Political Thought. New York: Meridian.

Arendt, H. (1998) The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Benhabib, S. (2003) The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt. Cambridge: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Donnelly, J. (2002) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. New York: Cornell University Press.

Durkheim, E. (1964). The Rules of Sociological Method. 8th ed. Translated by Sarah A. Solovay and John H. Mueller. New York: The Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan Limited.

Durkheim, E. (1984) The Division of Labor in Society. Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: The Free Press.

Durkheim, E. (2002) Suicide: A Study in Sociology. 2nd ed. Translated by John A. Spaulding and George Simpson. London and New York: Routledge.

Dworkin, R. (1978) Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Foucault, M. (1978) The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Translated by Colin Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. (1988) Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984. Translated by Alan Sheridan et al. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 2nd ed. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, M. (2003) ‘Society Must Be Defended’: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. Translated by David Macey. New York: Picador Press.

Habermas, J. (1998) Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Translated by William Rehg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Habermas, J. (2000) The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory. Translated by Ciaran Cronin et al. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.