The Rights Network: 100 Years of the Hohfeldian Rights Analytic

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This paper sets out to reconsider the Hohfeldian framework of rights in celebration of the centenary anniversary of their original publication. It begins by conceptualizing each of the Hohfeldian incidents or rights before outlining the molecular or complex structure of rights to “things”. I adopt a broad use of the term of “right” and apply it to Legal, Moral, Equitable and Human conceptions and constructions. It sets out an argument in favor of a further definitional model—in addition to Hohfeld’s scheme of opposites and correlatives—which focuses on the function of these conceptual rights. Finally, it sets out to provide a model of rights as forming a network within a given community and the exponential growth of “rights-connections” within an expanding community. This is used to frame responses to common criticisms of “rights talk” and the balance of benefits and burdens on account of such a rights network. Ultimately, this paper seeks to demonstrate the benefit, and indeed necessity, of the Hohfeldian model in any discussion of rights. Without it “rights talk” is debased and impoverished.
Original languageEnglish
Article number28
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).


  • Rights
  • Duties
  • Hohfeld
  • Obligations
  • Law
  • Networks
  • Legal Philosophy

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