On Human Rights and Majority Politics

Updated: Mar 18

By: Samuel Moyn


PDF: On Human Rights and Majority Politics


This symposium piece is primarily a reading of Felix Frankfurter’s dissent in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, attempting to draw some lessons from his theory of majoritarian rights for our own moment of crisis for the human rights movement. The situations then and now are only partly comparable, but Frankfurter’s call for allowing democratic processes to self-correct even when elite shortcuts beckon— including when it comes to defining and protecting rights— provides food for thought.