pandotree“We follow Aryeh Neier in describing the three types as “blue,” “red,” and “green” rights. Roughly, on his model “blue” rights are civil and political rights: the rights to individual liberties…“Red” rights are economic and social rights, rights that focus more on the quality of life. “Green” rights are collective rights such as the right to peace or the rights of future generations to environmental resources and the biodiversity necessary for human survival. Each of the three types includes the preceding one but also adds to it.”

The quote above comes from Phillip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr’s book Organic Marxism and, using Aryeh Neir and Karel Vasak’s model of generational human rights, they provide an excellent way of understanding rights language, which I think this is a critical thing for anyone to possess.

Accordingly, something that has baffled me for quite some time is how people who tend to be more libertarian or conservative minded will completely dismiss a more liberal or socially minded position simply because it advocates for a larger picture. In other words, I almost get the feeling that because liberal/left leaning socially/communally minded people tend to have a larger, more developed/complex, more world-centric paradigm, libertarian/conservative people assume that these more left leaning, socially minded people no longer value the individual and/or individual human rights. I don’t typically understand (or like) either/or binaries in general, but in this case it’s particularly disturbing. I think Henry Rosemont Jr. has diagnosed this problem correctly; he indicates that, for many people on the right, the only alternative to a libertarian individualism is “being a faceless member of a collective, communist or fascist.” This is complete nonsense.

No human being I know, not even the most hard-core Confucian, Marxist, Socialist, Buddhist or Process-Relational thinker, would deny someone their democratic individuality. As Cornell West once said, “There is something about democratic individuality which is very different from rugged, ragged, rapacious individualism.”

Put very simply, Individuality and Individualism are NOT the same.

So, no. Holding to the view that individuals exist because of, and cannot be separated from, their relationships, is NOT the same as saying individuals get no rights. What it does mean, though, is that  for people who are able to recognize that we live in a much larger complex inter-dependent world, “blue rights” can NOT be the end of the story; “red rights” and “green rights” also need to be considered.

Painting above depicts the “Pando, also known as The Trembling Giant, a clonal colony of a single quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) determined to be a single living organism by identical genetic markers and assumed to have one massive underground root system.”

Artist unknown.


  1. Patricia August 20, 2015 at 3:59 pm


    Great. I love these bite sized quotes/commentary. They feed the philosopher in me and I look forward to every one of them. Keep them coming!

    • jturri August 20, 2015 at 8:04 pm


      Thank you Patricia! So flattered you’re reading 🙂 .

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