This article examines the writings of the political theorist Karl Loewenstein to uncover the relationship between “militant democracy” and “human rights,” and their simultaneous rise to international prominence during the early Cold War. Through “militant democracy,” Loewenstein claimed that democratic states had to aggressively curb the rights of their enemies and preemptively invade and destroy nondemocratic regimes. Surprisingly, and unrecognized by historians, Loewenstein was also a key figure in the popularization of human rights in the 1940s. He was one of the architects of the American Law Institute's World War II–era declaration of human rights, which served as an important foundation for later charters on human rights. By explaining Loewenstein's conceptions of politics and rights, this article uncovers the foundational influence of aggressive anticommunism on the concept of human rights in the 1940s.

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