The alleged backlash against human rights: evidence From Denmark and the UK

Jacques Hartmann*, Samuel White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Contemporary populism is at loggerheads with human rights. As a result, the challenges now facing the human rights movement are fundamentally different to those of the past. Yet, proposed remedies to this malaise often seem ill-conceived. Populists tend to claim that the institutions charged with the protection of fundamental rights not only limit the capacity of the people to exercise their sovereign power, but are also the source of a growing discontent with the human rights system itself. This narrative is often uncritically accepted and leads to suggestions that human rights must be fundamentally reformed. Although intuitively appealing, such suggestions often lack support from empirical evidence. Focusing on Denmark and the UK, the chapter suggests that existing assumptions may be questioned. It draws on new and existing surveys, including four country-wide surveys in Denmark conducted between 2016-2018.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Rights in Times of Transition
Subtitle of host publicationLiberal Democracies and Challenges of National Security
EditorsKasey McCall-Smith, Andrea Birdsall, Elisenda Casanas Adam
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
ISBN (Electronic)9781789909890
ISBN (Print)9781789909883
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • human rights
  • backlash
  • human rights system
  • evidence
  • populism
  • remedies
  • narrative


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