Negotiating Culture and Human Rights

Negotiating Culture and Human Rights

Negotiating Culture and Human Rights

Negotiating Culture and Human Rights

Synopsis

"Negotiating Culture and Human Rights" provides a new interdisciplinary approach to issues of cultural values and universal human rights. Central to the discussion is the "Asian values debate, " so named because of the culturally relativist ideals embraced by some key Asian governments. By analyzing how cultural difference and human rights operate in theory and practice in such areas as legal equality, women's rights, and ethnicity, the contributors forge a new way of looking at these critical issues. They call their approach "chastened universalism, " arguing that respect for others' values need not lead to sterile, relativist views. Ultimately the authors conclude that it is less important to discover pre-existing common values across cultures than to create them through dialogue and debate

Excerpt

The devastating human atrocities of World War ii produced a major international commitment to the concept and practice of “universal human rights.” This commitment was demonstrated in 1948, with the United Nations' adoption of the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights” and the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Although these documents were negotiated among most of the then-existing states, from all regions of the world, the following decades were characterized by conflictual approaches to rights, with Western states supporting civic, political, and individual rights, and Socialist states championing socioeconomic and collective rights. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a sharpening international conflict among governments over human rights. While many formerly communist Eastern European nations have adopted a position sympathetic to civic and political rights of individuals, many governments in the developing world remain uneasy with, and on occasion even resentful of, what they perceive as Western triumphalism, interventionism, and cultural imperialism in the area of rights.

While the question of universal human rights is embroiled in power politics, it has also given rise to renewed intellectual debate over longstanding issues of cultural relativism and universalism. Because the relativist side of the argument has been articulated most forcefully in this latest round of debate by some Asian governments, the discussion has been labeled the “Asian values debate.” the debate has been at its best intense, multicultural, and intellectually substantial, developing arguments of significance within the areas of ethics, international law, and comparative politics.

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