Confronting Myths and Misunderstandings
Chapter 4: Globalisation, human rights and the modern nation-state
4. Globalisation, human rights and the modern nation-state INTRODUCTION Chapter 4 shifts the focus of discussion from the more overtly theoretical to the more recognisably institutional domain of human rights. The principal purpose of this chapter is to engage critically with a particular misunderstanding of the geo-political realities of contemporary human rights practice. The specific misunderstanding I address in this chapter concerns a view of the modern nation-state as the principal obstacle to realising human rights’ globalising ambition. This misunderstanding is, I believe, most apparent among human rights enthusiasts and advocates who most likely associate with civil society or non-governmental organisations whose principal adversary is the state and who, not surprisingly, come to view the state as the main obstacle to successfully realising their human rights goals. I assess the role of the modern nation-state in the protection and promotion of human rights principles. I consider both normative and empirical assessments and representations of the state, including those typically presented by advocates of cosmopolitanism and realism. I argue that human rights are often closely associated with a cosmopolitan ethical outlook which is itself considered to be a benign counterpart to globalisation. While this is obviously consistent with the universalising ambition of human rights, I argue that one consequence of this association is a diminution of the state’s importance in upholding human rights. Typically, human rights advocates view the state as the principal violator of human rights and turn to ostensibly cosmopolitan principles and institutions for a potential alternative to a...
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