Failing to see what matters most: Towards a better understanding of dehumanisation

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Dehumanisation is an elusive concept. While the term itself indicates that its meaning relates to a process that negatively affects the human aspect of the object involved, it proves more difficult to pinpoint what the ‘human aspect’ in this formula entails precisely or how dehumanisation can negatively affect it. This article aims to contribute to ongoing academic debates about dehumanisation by presenting a new way to understand this notion, which places the failure to recognise the moral relevance of human subjectivity at its conceptual core. The main argument is that dehumanisation involves a failure to recognise what matters most about human beings in a normative sense, namely the fact that their human subjectivity counts as a moral reason against mistreating them. This line of thought has the potential to bring together various strands in the available literature. The account integrates the insight that dehumanisation entails a denial of humanity, resonates with the idea that dehumanisation involves a particular form of moral exclusion and affirms that dehumanisation constitutes an affront to fundamental human interests, needs and rights.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • animalisation
  • brutalisation
  • dehumanisation
  • humanity
  • objectification
  • subjectivity

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