Agency: Origins, Concomitants, and Expansion

Guillermo O'Donnell

in Democracy, Agency, and the State

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199587612
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723384 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization

Agency: Origins, Concomitants, and Expansion

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This chapter traces the origins of the conception of the human being as an agent, i.e., somebody endowed with practical reason and moral judgement. It then looks at the embodiment of this conception in various ethical and, especially, legal theories and practices. These practices made the carriers of the respective rights legal persons — a condition that in the Northwest quadrant of the world was expanded by conflictive and non-linear processes to a gamut of political, civil, social, and lately also cultural rights. These processes were concomitant with the emergence of liberalism, at a later stage of constitutionalism, and quite recently of the full political democratization entailed by the adoption of the universalistic wager mentioned in the preceding chapter. Some differences with other regions of the world are briefly mentioned for further comparison in subsequent chapters.

Keywords: agency; stoics; middle ages; legal theory; modernity; citizenship; constitutionalism; liberalism; civil rights; social rights

Chapter.  8872 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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