This edition offers an introduction to the theory and practice of human rights from the perspective of politics and cognate disciplines. It showcases the ‘state of the art’ of the study of human rights in various fields and disciplines and explores a variety of important topics in contemporary human rights politics and practice. This introduction provides the historical and conceptual background necessary for informed critical engagement with the ideas and arguments presented in the text. It first explains why human rights have emerged as a powerful and important moral and political discourse since the middle of the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on their modernity, their invention, and their revolutionary character. It then examines the politics of human rights, the practice of human rights, and human rights as an object of enquiry. It concludes with a brief overview of the aims, structure, and objectives of the text.
This chapter discusses global politics in relation to the phenomenon of globalization. ‘Global politics’ as a field of study encompasses the traditional concerns of International Relations with how states interact under conditions of anarchy, but lays greater emphasis on the role of non-state actors and processes in a globalizing world. The chapter first provides an overview of politics in a globalizing world before explaining the basic distinctions between ‘state’ and ‘nation’ in the context of contemporary global politics. It then considers the variation in state forms and the phenomenon of empire throughout history as well as the historical emergence of the modern state and state system in Europe along with ideas about sovereignty and nationalism against the background of ‘modernity’. It also examines the effective globalization of the European state system through modern imperialism and colonialism and the extent to which these have been productive of contemporary global order.
This chapter discusses what is often regarded as the central institution, not only of domestic or national political order but also of current international or global order—the state. Alongside the state, we must also consider the idea of the nation and the ideology of nationalism—perhaps the most powerful political ideology to emerge in the modern world. There is, however, another form of international political order that has actually been far more common throughout history, and that is empire. With the rise of modernity from around the beginning of the seventeenth century, we also encounter the rise of the modern state and state system in Europe along with ideas about sovereignty, citizenship, the nation-state, and democracy. The chapter then looks at the effective globalization of the European state system through modern imperialism and colonialism and the extent to which these have been productive of contemporary global order.