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Cover Issues in Political Theory

11. Human Rights  

Tom Campbell

This chapter focuses on human rights. Human rights are derived historically from the idea of natural law as it developed on a strong religious basis in late medieval Europe and, later, in a more secularized form during the more rationalist period of the Enlightenment. Meanwhile, the contemporary human rights movement stems from the aftermath of World War II. It is associated, domestically, with constitutional bills of rights and, internationally, with the work of the United Nations. Human rights may be defined as universal rights of great moral and political significance that belong to all human beings by virtue of their humanity. They are said to be overriding and absolute. Human rights may be divided into three overlapping groups: civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and group or collective rights for development and self-determination.

Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

8. Multiculturalism  

Monica Mookherjee

This chapter studies multiculturalism. The term ‘multiculturalism’ can refer to the fact of cultural diversity and may also describe the coexistence of different kinds of cultural group within a country. Multiculturalism emphasizes status, as well as economic inequalities. Thin multiculturalism views all cultural differences as disagreements between groups that agree on liberal values. This view may underestimate the extent of conflict between cultures. Meanwhile, thick multiculturalism appreciates that some cultural differences occur between liberals and non-liberals. While the solution to cultural conflicts in thick multiculturalism is often a modus vivendi, the question is whether this solution treats non-liberal minority cultures fairly. Defenders of cultural rights hold that governments should recognize that all citizens deserve equal opportunities for developing self-respect and autonomy. However, by respecting cultural rights, a government risks supporting injustice against individuals within groups.

Chapter

Cover Political Ideologies

2. Liberalism  

Robin Redhead and Stephen Hood

This chapter explores the basic assumptions of liberal ideology. It first traces the origins of liberalism before discussing some key concepts and values of a liberal ideology such as liberty, democracy, rights, and tolerance. It then considers two of the most important, yet contrasting, strands within liberalism: economic liberalism, which supports policies of privatization and laissez-faire economics, and social liberalism, whose concern for individual freedom is coupled with a commitment to social equality. The chapter also looks at some key criticisms of liberal ideas, focusing on the liberal vision of a just society, as well as the influence of liberalism on social movements and political parties in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. Finally, it illustrates the pervasiveness of liberalism and how it is related to other ideologies.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

32. Rawls  

Rex Martin

This chapter examines the main arguments for John Rawls's ideas about justice. Rawls identified two principles as central to political liberalism: the principle of equal basic rights and liberties, and a principle of economic justice, which stresses equality of opportunity, mutual benefit, and egalitarianism. In Rawls's interpretation, these two principles take place ultimately in an ideal arena for decision-making, which he calls the ‘original position’. In time, Rawls became dissatisfied with this approach and began to reconfigure his theory, moving the focus towards a ‘family’ of liberal principles. The chapter begins by discussing Rawls's first and second principles before considering his concept of ‘original position’ as well as his views on overlapping consensus. It concludes with an analysis of the main ideas contained in Rawls's 1999 book, The Law of Peoples.