Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations

Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations

Connecting People Across Cultures and Traditions

Edited by Helle Porsdam

This ground breaking book discusses whether human rights can be forged into a common set of transcendent principles against which actions of every nation can be judged and whether such a common understanding, or civil religion, could one day become a vehicle for global peace.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Helle Porsdam

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, international relations


Helle Porsdam Political life, argue Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox in their introduction to Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research (2011), has always been full of ideas. Yet, for the past half-century or so, the study of ideas and non-materialist explanations of why human beings do what they do have been denigrated. Béland and Cox point to the rise of behaviorism as well as to the resurgence of neo-Marxism within the social sciences as possible explanations for this dismissive attitude toward ideational approaches. Today, however, across the social sciences, they write, researchers seem to have become more aware of the impact of ideas, culture, discourse and framing processes in general – of the way in which ‘ideas are a primary source of political behavior… [They] shape how we understand political problems, give definition to our goals and strategies, and are the currency we use to communicate about politics.’1 It is not only in the social sciences that ideational approaches have caught on. In a sense, the assumption that people develop sets of ideas to make sense of the world and their interactions with each other, and the further assumption that such ideas then become an important cause of human action, political, social as well as cultural, have always been there in the humanities. But they have both been reinforced, at least since the 1970s and 1980s, by broad trends such as the development of interdisciplinary forms of discourse analysis and constructivism, and emphases on racial, sexual...