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The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter covers the philosophical foundations of human rights. It highlights the importance of human rights history to the understanding of debates and problems when theorizing about human rights. The human rights language has been globally recognized as a response to injustice. However, philosophers from the spectrum of conservatism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and socialism attacked the idea of natural rights, while the radicals criticized the rights of man for being the rights of bourgeois man. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the defining text of the human rights movement, which is correlated to history and philosophy. The chapter also looks into the philosophical justification and universalism of modern human rights. It explores the concepts of cultural relativism and human rights imperialism. Additionally, the types of human rights revolve around liberty and welfare rights.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

16. Global International Relations  

Amitav Acharya

This chapter analyses and assesses the movement towards a more Global IR. The chapter first revisits the origins of IR. While the foundational narrative stresses the origin of IR as a normative project of avoiding war in Europe, obscuring the discipline’s colonial and racist aspects, this chapter highlights broader concerns and contributions from the periphery, such as anti-colonialism, racism, underdevelopment, and world order. The second part captures IR’s neglect and lack of fit with non-Western experiences during the postwar phase of Americanization with the help of a case study—of the liberal order—and the seminal work of Mohammed Ayoob dealing with Third World Security. Part three examines efforts in various parts of the world to develop arguments and positions that question the universality of the discipline and aspire to inject greater diversity into IR. It is argued here that such regional contributions to IR need not undermine the globalization of IR theory but can complement and enrich it in the path to a Global IR.

Book

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice
Human Rights: Politics and Practice provides an introduction to human rights. Combining political science, philosophy, law, and policy-making, the text provides a broad range of perspectives on the theoretical and practical issues in this constantly evolving field. In addition to in-depth theoretical content, the text also features coverage of human rights issues in practice, with a wide range of case studies to explore concrete examples from around the world. The third edition has been brought fully up-to-date with the most recent events and latest research developments in the area. Two new chapters have been added: one on religion and human rights, and one on sexual orientation and gender issues and human rights, introducing students to these important topics and expanding the theoretical and practical discussion of issues of universalism and relativism. The new edition also features a range of carefully developed pedagogical features to aid learning, encourage critical analysis, and challenge students to question their own assumptions.

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Transitional Justice  

Joanna R. Quinn

This chapter covers transitional justice, which is correlated with the principle of universality, human rights violation, and impunity. It explores the social implications of brutal conflict. Retributive justice, restorative justice, and reparative justice have been enumerated as the three approaches to transitional justice that differ from their goals and mechanisms such as trials, truth commissions, and apologies. The three paradigms of transitional justice represent perspectives on how a society can be rebuilt. The chapter then references the case study regarding the civil conflict in Uganda to highlight the difficulty of resolving the social implications of prolonged violent conflicts by putting the aforementioned paradigms into practice.

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Social Movements and Human Rights  

Jackie Smith

This chapter discusses the significance of the human rights movement to contemporary conflict and local and global democracy. It recognizes how social movement challenges state authority shaping the structure of democracies as activists develop political repertoires designed to expand public participation in political decision-making. Moreover, social movements resulted in the globalization of human rights, which is supported by a growing array of international treaties and institutions. The chapter then looks into the work of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on improving mechanisms for human rights enforcement alongside the Human Rights Council. It considers the important roles of scholars and students in supporting human rights movements.

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Theory in Practice: Making Human Rights Claims in a Human Rights Way  

Brooke Ackerly

This chapter explores the material bases of struggles for human rights that helped shape human rights norms. It highlights the importance of context to illustrate how human rights have been violated. Arguments on human rights politics typically revolve around the notion of cultural relativism and universalism. Cultural relativism refers to the ethics developed within a particular social context; thus, there could be no moral or ethical framework that could apply in all contexts. The chapter lists some human rights struggles, such as the activism of a labour rights organization, rights as entitlements, and making a rights claim. It suggests how public discussion can bring change if there is a transformation in power inequalities, which is often necessary to have aforementioned public discussions.

Chapter

Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

16. Humanitarian Intervention and Political Self-Determination  

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter argues that there is a just cause to intervene militarily in a state that systematically violates the human rights of its members. It rejects the views of those who contend that there is no justification for humanitarian intervention because there are no universal moral values. The chapter accepts that the value of political self-determination can explain what is wrong with humanitarian intervention in some cases. However, appeals to this value are decisive less often than many critics of intervention suppose. One concern with adopting a permissive attitude towards humanitarian intervention is that this might be open to misuse. The chapter then articulates a role for international law in authorizing intervention to minimize this risk. It concludes by clarifying how these arguments fit within a wider set of considerations pertinent to the justifiability of humanitarian intervention.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

20. Zhang Taiyan  

Patrizia Longo

This chapter looks at Zhang Taiyan’s political theory, revolving around revolution and nationalism. It describes how Zhang tried to build a new politics based on a new universality that does not extinguish particularity. Buddhism influenced most of Zhang’s anti-Manchu propaganda and political theory. The chapter then explains how the ideas of Zhang’s Buddhist political theory are picked up by the post-war Japanese intellectual Takeuchi Yoshimi. It explores the goal of pan-Asianism to negate the West and take Western values to a higher level. Takeuchi and Zhang tried to create a new universality by confronting the West through an anti-imperialist nationalist struggle.

Chapter

Cover Global Political Economy

8. Health  

Simon Rushton

This chapter describes a wide range of contemporary health challenges. It begins by assessing what it means to be healthy. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the response to it, have brought to the fore and shed new light on many of the issues that are core to Global Political Economy (GPE). Despite spectacular advances, there are huge inequalities in health in the world today, both within and between countries. Improving health requires both prevention and cure: public health efforts to protect and promote the health of populations, and healthcare services that are accessible to all in times of need. The chapter then considers how the social, economic, and commercial determinants of health can best be understood by adopting a GPE lens. A GPE framework can also reveal the challenges the world faces in its attempt to achieve universal access to quality healthcare.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

8. Critical Theory  

Steven C. Roach

This chapter examines the various assumptions of critical theory espoused by the Frankfurt school, with particular emphasis on how the Frankfurt school’s critiques of authoritarianism and repression influenced the critical interventions by International Relations (IR) theorists. The chapter focuses on two major strands of critical International Relations theory: normative theory and the Marxist-based critique of the political economy. After providing an overview of the Frankfurt school and critical IR theory, the chapter explores critical theorists’ views on universal morality and political economy. It then discusses Jürgen Habermas’s ideas in international relations and presents a case study of the Arab Spring. It concludes by analysing the concept of critical reflexivity and how it can show knowledge and social reality are co-produced through social interaction, and how this interaction can, in turn, produce practical or empirical knowledge of the changing moral and legal dynamics of prominent global institutions.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

1. Normative and Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter discusses the normative and theoretical foundations of human rights. More specifically, it examines the theoretical basis for the normative ideas advanced by those who use the language of human rights for an ethical critique of international politics and policy. The chapter first traces the origins of the language of rights before discussing cultural relativism and imperialism, both of which challenge the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ claim to have universal application. It then considers the negative/positive distinction as a way of thinking about the differences between liberty and welfare rights. It also explores group rights, along with the philosophical and political history of the idea of human rights. Finally, it explains how the human rights agenda is deeply political, showing that it privileges a certain set of normative commitments that its proponents hope will become, in time, the ethical constitution of the international system.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

15. Torture  

William F. Schulz

This chapter examines the use of torture in Western history, focusing on the torture of slaves, confessions as ‘the Queen of Proofs’, and calls for the abolition of virtually all forms of torture. It also considers the principal international instruments against torture, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Finally, it analyses the pro and con arguments of the hypothetical case in which a suspect is thought to know the location of a ticking bomb that is about to explode and may injure large numbers of people. It argues that such a scenario is extremely rare and explains how far more common instances of torture may most successfully be diminished.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

6. Sociological and Anthropological Approaches  

Damien Short

This chapter explores sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of human rights. Anthropologists and sociologists have typically been either positivists or relativists. Consequently they have been slow to develop an analysis of justice and rights, thus lagging behind other disciplines in analysing the growth of universal human rights. This chapter shows how sociology and anthropology finally engaged with the concept of universal human rights after a long disciplinary focus on cultural relativism and legal positivism. It considers how sociology expanded its analysis of citizenship rights to that of human rights and how anthropology turned its ethnographic methodology towards an examination of the ‘social life of rights’. It also describes ‘social constructionism’ as a common bond between sociology and anthropology, laying emphasis on the importance of sociological and anthropological perspectives to the study of human rights.

Chapter

Cover Politics

11. Laws, Constitutions, and Federalism  

This chapter explores the interrelationships between law, constitutions, and federalism. It first explains the importance of constitutions in shaping the basic structure of the state and the fundamental rights of citizens that they establish before discussing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular asking whether it is Western-centric. It then considers the ways in which states may attempt to realize justice in applying the law, with emphasis on the distinction between Islamic and Western practice. It also examines the role of constitutional courts and judicial review, legal adjudication of political problems, how the institution of federalism is used to contain the powers of the state and to manage diverse societies, and consociationalism as an alternative approach to handling social diversity. Finally, it analyses the increasing legalization of political life.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

21. Mary Wollstonecraft  

Ashley Dodsworth

This chapter expounds on the political thought of feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, with a focus on her influential analysis of gender inequality. It highlights her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by focusing on its radical arguments on gender, reason, and education. The chapter contextualizes Wollstonecraft’s work within the republican tradition, which underpinned her opposition to slavery and her recognition of global inequalities. The chapter suggests that her arguments for emancipation were justified by problematic assumptions of universalism that were made more complicated by the tensions of class, motherhood, and Orientalism. It also tackles the backlash against her memoir, published by her husband, as it unveiled her suicide attempts, a dysfunctional childhood, and a child being born out of wedlock.

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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

29. Immanuel Kant  

Stella Sandford

This chapter focuses on Immanuel Kant’s political writings and their influence on the history of Western philosophy. It critically examines the major problems in Kant’s political thought, such as its relation to Eurocentrism and the racial theory of development. But also, this chapter explains the main tenets of Kant’s philosophy including the practical and theoretical parts, transcendental idealism, and the categorical imperative. The theoretical part of Kant’s philosophy explains the metaphysical and deals with the natural world, while the practical part addresses human action. It further examines, his political philosophy, including universal history and the metaphysical foundations of political theory. The chapter then turns considers the impact of Kant’s philosophy as well as its problems, notably in relation to ideal and non-ideal theory.