Caring autonomy: rethinking the right to autonomy under the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence
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This thesis sets out an argument against the present interpretation of the concept of autonomy under the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR) Article 8 jurisprudence and proposes a new reading of the concept that is rooted in an acknowledgment and appreciation of human interdependence. Following the prevailing political, legal and socio-cultural ideas and ideals about autonomy, the ECtHR has chosen to furnish its recent Article 8 case law according to the values characteristic of the notion of individual autonomy – independence, selfsufficiency, and the ability to conduct one’s life in a manner of one’s own choosing. Adopting this individualistic view on autonomy, the ECtHR sets normative standards for behaviour that the thesis challenges as being detrimental for the quality of interpersonal relationships. The work draws on sociological theory to argue that in modern individualised societies people are increasingly tied to each other – one has to be socially sensitive and to be able to relate to others and to obligate oneself, in order to manage and organise the complexities of everyday life. This also means that there are attendant obligations between individuals to be sensitive towards, and care for, each other. It is argued that an effective exercise of one’s autonomy becomes necessarily dependent on the existence of caring and trusting relationships. This in turn requires the ECtHR to adopt an appropriate conceptualisation of autonomy that embraces this knowledge and gives full effect to it. The concept of caring autonomy is proposed as a replacement for an individualistic concept of autonomy. It will be argued that this concept captures better the essentiality of human interdependence and the morality it calls for. The implications of this for the future direction of the ECtHR jurisprudence are also considered.