Modern universalism, arising from the generalization of the “right to have rights” (or the access to citizenship for all), produces a paradoxical effect on the recognition and definition of anthropological differences, such as gender and sexuality, race and culture, normality and abnormality.

Its “civic-bourgeois” foundation, which is purely political (neither theological nor cosmological), accounts for a neutralization of differences in the abstract realm of liberty and equality, which justifies claims of emancipation. On the other hand, discriminations barring individuals and groups from (full) access to citizenship need to be rooted in human nature, which is supposed to consist therefore of hierarchized “characters.” As a consequence, differences become also principles of exclusion: this is more violent symbolically (or even practically) but much less stable and “legitimate” than was the case in previous forms of historical hegemony.

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