The language of "rights" pervades modern social and political discourse - from prisoners' to unborn babies' - yet there is deep disagreement amongst citizens, politicians and philosophers about just what they mean. Who has them? Who should have them? Who can claim them? What are the grounds upon which they can be claimed? How are they related to other important moral and political values such as community, virtue, autonomy, democracy and social justice? In this book, Duncan Ivison offers a unique and accessible integration of, and introduction to, the history and philosophy of rights. He focuses especially on the politics of rights: the fact that rights have always been, and will remain, deeply contested. He discusses not only the historical contexts in which some of the leading philosophers of rights formed their arguments, but also the moral and logical issues they raise for thinking about the nature of rights more generally. At each step, Ivison also considers various deep criticisms of rights, including those made by communitarian, feminist, Marxist and postmodern critics. The book is aimed at students and readers coming to these issues for the first time, but also at more knowledgeable readers looking for a distinctive integration of history and theory as applied to questions about the nature of rights today.