Recent years have witnessed an upsurge of political readings of the right to have rights. The gist of the argument is that this right only comes into being in the act of claiming or taking it.
At the same time, the political reading suffers from a normative lacuna which is difficult to ignore if right is not to collapse into might. The present article seeks to show that this normative lacuna can be accounted for if one situates the political reading in relation to a certain form of government. Acknowledging Montesquieu’s influence on Arendt’s resort to the principles which guide political action, the article offers a new interpretation of the normative basis of the right to have rights. It argues, first, that this right is democratic, not political, and second, that the principle which sets the right in motion is responsibility, not freedom.