This article seeks to highlight an old question which has a renewed importance in light of the contemporary domination of emancipatory politics by the human rights discourse. In it I examine the nature of the concept which we call 'human rights' and the objections to its validity which Marxists commonly raise. It pays particular attention to the ambiguity in the Marxist treatment of the human rights discourse, the difference between the general concept and the current liberal conception which dominates, and the role of law where human rights are theorised as legally protected political claims. I argue that the question is more complex than it first appears and that seeking too simple an answer may run the risk of inadvertently replacing Marxist critique with a distinctly a-critical dogmatism.
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