At the end of the 1970s, philosopher Claude Lefort emphasised – against the excessively restrictive Marxist vision – the political dynamics attached to the affirmation of human rights. This theme has remained predominant in theoretical debate about democracy in France until the present day. A first strand of thought considers the primacy of human rights as a driver of depoliticisation. Authors such as Marcel Gauchet and Pierre Manent have argued that the vitality of the plural society described by Lefort could ultimately backfire on democracy itself. This article argues that this school of thought rests on a narrow conception of rights and an insufficiently dialectical conception of the relationship between rights and practice. Consequently, it defends Lefort's position by relying heavily on a second strand of thought that conceives human rights as the way forward for a radicalisation of democratic ambitions.