Human Rights

Human Rights

Human Rights

Human Rights

Synopsis

Are human rights part of the problem or part of the solution in the current 'clash of civilisations'? Drawing on a hitherto neglected body of work in classical social theory, and combining it with ideas derived from Barrington Moore, Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault, Woodiwiss poses and answers the questions: * How did human rights become entangled with power relations? * How might the nature of this entanglement be altered so that human rights better serve the global majority? In so doing, he explains how and why rights discourse developed in such distinctive ways in four key locations: Britain, the United States, Japan and in the UN. On this basis he provides, for the first time, a general sociological account of the development of international human rights discourse. This is the first general sociological account of the development of human rights, and it represents a striking challenge to current thinking and policy.

Excerpt

The two most general questions addressed in this study are:

How did human rights become entangled with power relations?

How might the nature of this entanglement be altered so that human rights may better serve the global majority?

In answering these questions, I will relate and indeed, in an analytical sense, subordinate the human rights story to the larger story of social change. For this reason, I will focus not so much on the history of the idea of human rights as on the social sources of this idea and, especially, on the concrete social activities or problems that rights have been developed to facilitate or solve, as well as on the equally concrete legal forms through which rights have been developed and attached to bearers in a diverse set of societies. This is primarily because, to develop the earlier point about the relationship between human rights regimes and the disposition of power, the existence of rights and, most importantly, any practical protective effectiveness they may have, represents the tip of a social iceberg. What I mean by this is that, other than in a limited but, as will be seen, nevertheless important legal sense, rights are neither self-generated nor self-enforcing, but rather summarise, make concrete, and depend for any protective effectiveness they may possess on, the nature of wider sets of social relations and developments within them. Thus the rights now

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