By Michael Ignatieff
Michael Ignatieff attracts on his broad event as a author and commentator on international affairs to offer a penetrating account of the successes, mess ups, and clients of the human rights revolution. because the United international locations followed the common statement of Human Rights in 1948, this revolution has introduced the realm ethical growth and damaged the nation-state's monopoly at the behavior of foreign affairs. however it has additionally confronted demanding situations. Ignatieff argues that human rights activists have rightly drawn feedback from Asia, the Islamic international, and in the West itself for being overambitious and unwilling to just accept limits. it's now time, he writes, for activists to include a extra modest schedule and to reestablish the stability among the rights of states and the rights of citizens.
Ignatieff starts via analyzing the politics of human rights, assessing while it really is applicable to take advantage of the actual fact of human rights abuse to justify intervention in different international locations. He then explores the information that underpin human rights, caution that human rights mustn't ever develop into an idolatry. within the spirit of Isaiah Berlin, he argues that human rights can command common assent provided that they're designed to guard and improve the skill of people to steer the lives they need. via embracing this method and spotting that nation sovereignty is the simplest warrantly opposed to chaos, Ignatieff concludes, Western countries could have a greater likelihood of extending the genuine development of the prior fifty years. all through, Ignatieff balances idealism with a certain feel of useful fact earned from his years of trip in zones of battle and political turmoil round the globe.
Based at the Tanner Lectures that Ignatieff brought at Princeton University's middle for Human Values in 2000, the booklet comprises chapters through Ignatieff, an advent via Amy Gutmann, reviews by way of 4 top scholars--K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher--and a reaction by way of Ignatieff.
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Extra resources for Human Rights as Politics, Human Rights as Idolatry
4. The Spiritual Crisis Whereas the cultural crisis of human rights has been about the intercultural validity of human rights norms, the spiritual crisis of human rights concerns the ultimate metaphysical grounds for these norms. Why do human beings have rights in the Šrst place? What is it about the human species and the human individual that entitles them to rights? If there is something special about the human person, why is this inviolability so often honored in the breach rather than in the observance?
There is no reason to apologize for the moral individualism at the heart of human rights discourse: it is precisely this that makes it attractive to dependent groups suffering exploitation or oppression. There is no reason, either, to think of freedom as a uniquely Western value or to believe that advocating it then unjustly imposes Western values on them. For it contradicts the meaning of freedom itself to attempt to deŠne for others the use they make of it. The best way to face the cultural challenge to human rights—coming from Asia, Islam, and Western postmodernism—is to admit its truth: rights discourse is individualistic.
Human rights is the only universally available moral vernacular that validates the claims of women and children against the oppression they experience in patriarchal and tribal societies; it is the only vernacular that enables dependent persons to perceive themselves as moral agents and to act against practices—arranged marriages, purdah, civic disenfranchisement, genital mutilation, domestic slavery, and so on—that are ratiŠed by the weight and authority of their cultures. These agents seek out human rights protection, not because it ratiŠes their culture, but precisely because it legitimizes their protests against its oppression.