Human Rights

Human Rights

Confronting Myths and Misunderstandings

Andrew Fagan

This book offers both an introduction to and a critical analysis of enduring themes and issues in the contemporary theory and practice of human rights. The author argues that the moral authority and practical efficacy of human rights are adversely affected by a range of myths and misunderstandings – from claims regarding the moral status of human rights as an allegedly fully comprehensive moral doctrine to the view that the possession of rights is anti-ethical to recognising the importance of moral duties. The author also examines such issues as the claim that human rights can ultimately only be said to exist as legal phenomena and the claim that nation-states are inherently hostile to the spirit of human rights. Discussion cuts across academic boundaries in an attempt to defend human rights against those who have come to expect too much and those who expect too little from human rights.

Introduction:The Basis and Scope of Human Rights

Andrew Fagan

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

Extract

Introduction This book, as the sub-title indicates, aims to confront a number of enduring and significant myths and misunderstandings which afflict both the theory and the practice of human rights. Many other academic human rights books approach the subject by means of a conventional classificatory structure which distinguishes between such things as the different categories of human rights, enduring themes and concepts within the subject-matter and established issues in the application of human rights to the ‘real world’. Many of these works have made a vitally important contribution to the understanding of human rights amongst students and practitioners alike. The extent of their success can be gauged by the relatively little that remains to be usefully written within this genre. In an effort to avoid mere repetition, I have opted for a different approach to the subject. Human rights have become, in many parts of the world, a household term. In some parts of the world, human rights have become a veritable totem around which campaigns for social justice and against oppression have taken root. An awareness of and an appeal to human rights have spread beyond the realm of elite political and intellectual communities and have come to exert a profound influence upon many people’s political, economic and social projects and aspirations. It would be wrong, or at least deeply egocentric, to claim that we, that is everyone, now live in a veritable age of human rights. This is, if you will, the foremost myth in need of correction....