Edited by Hein-Anton van der Heijden
The human rights idea, that governments should honor the physical integrity and inherent dignity of all persons, has inspired millions of people to work to translate the ideal into political reality. Although the concept of rights has a history that reaches back centuries, the concept of human rights is relatively new, and it has sparked a high level of organized transnational action from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Numerous studies by historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists chart the origins of human rights (e.g., Lauren, 2003; Cmiel, 2004; Ishay, 2004; Hunt, 2007; Quataert, 2009; Moyn, 2010; Neier, 2012), and so we focus mainly on later developments as the human rights movement emerged and flourished. We begin with a brief discussion of the early articulation of human rights principles after World War II and then address the transnational aspects of the human rights movement: its members and structure; its distinctive frames and repertoires; and the political opportunities available to the movement at the global level. Finally, we review some of the questions that have been posed by researchers about the identity, politics, and effects of the transnational movement for human rights.
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