This article concentrates on legal rights. For the political trend or ideology, see Right wing.
In jurisprudence and law, a right is the legal or moral entitlement to do or refrain from doing something or to obtain or refrain from obtaining an action, thing or recogition in civil society. Compare with privilege.
Generally speaking a right corresponds with a complementary obligation that others have on the same object or realm; for instance if someone has a right on a thing, simultaneously another party or parties have an obligation to do something (or to abstain from doing something) in order to respect that right or to give concrete execution to that right. Property rights provide a good example: society recognizes that individuals have title to particular property as defined by the transaction by which they acquired the property granting the individual free use and possession of the property. In many cases, especially regarding ideological and similar rights, the obligation depends on the legal system in its entirety, or on the state, or on the generical universality of other subjects submitted to the law.
The right can therefore be a faculty of doing something, of omitting or refusing to do something or of claiming something. Some interpretations express a typical form of right in the faculty of using something, and this is more often related to the right of property. The faculty (in all the above mentioned senses) can be originated by a (generical or specific) law, or by a private contract (which is sometimes exactly defined as a specific law between or among volunteer parties).
Other interpretations consider the right as a sort of freedom of something or as the object of justice. One of the definitions of justice is in fact the obligation that the legal system has toward the individual or toward the collectivity to grant respect or execution to his/her/its right, ordinarily with no need of explicit claim.
Rights can be divided into individual rights, that are held by citizens as individuals (or corporations) recognised by the legal system, and into collective rights, held by an ensemble of citizens or a subgroup of citizens whose actions are regulated by the same system. There is a tension between individual and collective rights.
With reference to the object of the right, a common general distinction is among:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In 1948 the United Nations made the above declaration, which was an over-arching set of standards by which Governments, organisations and individuals would measure their behaviour towards each other.
This Declaration introduced the notion in the public realm that rights had a moral dimension, independent of and overriding where relevant the legislature or government which granted specific legal rights. The notion was not new, e. g. Thomas Paine had argued in this way in his book The Rights of Man.
Other general Declarations have followed, notably the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
See also: jurisprudence -- law -- Animal rights -- Bill of rights -- Human rights -- individual rights -- Freedom -- Freedom of religion -- Freedom of speech -- Freedom of the press -- Social contract --