"Rights" can give rise to "rights consciousness" so that individuals and groups may imagine and act in light of rights that have not been formally recognized or enforced. Rights, in this sense, are neither limited to nor-coextensive with precisely those rules formally announced and enforced by public authorities. Instead, rights represent articulations -- public or private, formal or informal -- of claims that people use to persuade others (and themselves) about how they should be treated and about what they should be granted. I mean, then, to include within the ambit of rights discourse all efforts to claim new rights, to resist and alter official state action that fails to acknowledge such rights, and to construct communities apart from the state to nurture new conceptions of rights. Rights here encompass even those claims that lose, or have lost in the past, if they continue to represent claims that muster people's hopes and articulate their continuing efforts to persuade.
Martha Minow, Interpreting Rights: An Essay for Robert Cover, Yale Law Journal 96 (1987): 1860-1915, 1867.
UPDATE: I should clarify that this is not the rights conception "from the left" -- it is part of the conception by Minow, and presumably some fellow travelers (which, in turn, includes me to some extent) -- most of whom, I admit, are "from the left" to greater or lesser degrees. We are, alas, not all that powerful people -- certainly, we are not the shadowy cabal that controls "the left" and dictates its opinions.