Old Problems, New Possibilities
Edited by David Kinley, Wojciech Sadurski and Kevin Walton
Chapter 6: The particularism of human rights discourse
This chapter argues that the contemporary discourse of human rights – as conceived of in contemporary international law, and in the rich and dynamic politics that accompanies that body of law – is particular rather than universal. That is, human rights discourse has purchase only in some, not all, contexts of human life and of moral and political endeavour. The basic argument to this conclusion is that human rights discourse rests upon, or presupposes, a particular conception of economic, social and political life. Where the facts of economic, social and political life do not conform to that conception, then (so I will argue) human rights discourse no longer plays its professed role, of authoritatively stating the preconditions of ‘freedom, justice and peace’. That is not to say that it might not play some other role, however: what will also be argued is that human rights discourse has a significant capacity to generate pressure to bring the facts of economic, social and political life into conformity with its own presuppositions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but is worth seeing for what it is, rather than mistaking it for something else. I will argue that becoming clear on the way in which human rights discourse is particular rather than universal need not weaken its normative authority, and in fact may actually enhance that authority in certain respects.
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.