Volume 4, Issue 3, Spring 1990
Stuart D. Warner
The Politics of the Book
The French Revolution and the Demise of Natural Rights Theory
The principal object of Ihis essay is to elucidate some of the story of how a theory that was so entrenched in the minds of intellectuals, namely, natural rights theory, fell so out of favor. This is the story of how the terror, fear, and destruction that became part of the French Revolution was laid at the feet of natural rights theory by three powerful figures: Burke, Bentham, and Hegel. It was these three figures, more than any others, who were responsible for the demise of natural rights theory in the nineteenth century; and their respective criticisms of natural rights theory were made under the omnipresent shadow of, and in response to, the French Revolulion.