The Quest for Rights
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The Quest for Rights

Ideal and Normative Dimensions

Edited by Massimo La Torre, Leone Niglia and Mart Susi

This discerning book explores the concept of human and fundamental rights, originating from the seminal work by the German legal scholar and constitutional lawyer Robert Alexy. Recognising the growing challenges to the idea of the universality of Human Rights, expert scholars consider time-independent conceptual questions which inevitably lie at the heart of any contemporary human rights discourse: What is the justification of balancing and/or trading off fundamental rights against other rights and collective goods? And are there utilitarian considerations that can limit the normative force of human rights?
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Chapter 9: Human rights are not universal and cannot be natural

Rein Müllerson

Abstract

Differences between various theories of human rights so far have been mainly differences within the same Western worldview, which has either ignored other worldviews or treated them with condescension. To avoid abstract theorizing on the nature of human rights without studying concrete societies, which had previously existed or exist today, without the analysis of why some of them had become slave-owning societies while others had evolved into liberal democracies, it is necessary to take historical and comparative approaches. Both human rights, expressing the good that exists in humans, and human wrongs, reflecting the evil existing in the world and in us, are both equally human, though not necessarily humane. Human rights are social constructs that are called upon to respond to human needs and remedy human wrongs. Historically the emergence of human rights is related to the advent of centralized states in Medieval Europe where those belonging to the class of nobles needed tools that would have justified their claims against the king becoming all-powerful.

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