Liberty and Justice for all
Charles R. Beitz (Oxford University Press: October 2009), 256 pages.
The international doctrine of human rights is one of the most ambitious parts of the settlement of World War II. Since then, the language of human rights has become the common language of social criticism in global political life. This book is a theoretical examination of the central idea of that language, the idea of a human right. In contrast to more conventional philosophical studies, the author takes a practical approach, looking at the history and political practice of human rights for guidance in understanding the central idea. The author presents a model of human rights as matters of international concern whose violation by governments can justify international protective and restorative action ranging from intervention to assistance. He proposes a schema for justifying human rights and applies it to several controversial cases—rights against poverty, rights to democracy, and the human rights of women. Throughout, the book attends to some main reasons why people are skeptical about human rights, including the fear that human rights will be used by strong powers to advance their national interests. The book concludes by observing that contemporary human rights practice is vulnerable to several pathologies and argues the need for international collaboration to avoid them. ~ Product Description
Kwame Anthony Appiah (W.W. Norton & Company: Feb 17, 2007), 224 pages.
AAppiah, a Princeton philosophy professor, articulates a precise yet flexible ethical manifesto for a world characterized by heretofore unthinkable interconnection but riven by escalating fractiousness. Drawing on his Ghanaian roots and on examples from philosophy and literature, he attempts to steer a course between the extremes of liberal universalism, with its tendency to impose our values on others, and cultural relativism, with its implicit conviction that gulfs in understanding cannot be bridged. Cosmopolitanism, in Appiah’s formulation, balances our “obligations to others” with the "value not just of human life but of particular human lives" — what he calls “universality plus difference.” Appiah remains skeptical of simple maxims for ethical behavior — like the Golden Rule, whose failings as a moral precept he swiftly demonstrates — and argues that cosmopolitanism is the name not "of the solution but of the challenge." ~ The New Yorker
The Human Rights Reader Major Political Essays, Speeches and Documents From the Bible to the Present
Micheline Ishay, ed. (Routledge: Jul 2006), 559 pages.
The Second Edition of The Human Rights Reader presents a dramatically revised organization and updated selections, including pieces on globalization and the war on terrorism. Each part of the Reader corresponds to five historical phases in the history of human rights and explores for each the arguments, debates, and issues of inclusiveness central to those eras. The volume remains the most comprehensive and up-to-date collection of essays, speeches, and documents from historical and contemporary sources, all of which are now placed in context with Micheline Ishay's substantial introduction to the reader as a whole and valuable introductions to each part and chapter. ~ Product Description
Jack Donnelly (Cornell: Nov 1, 2002)
In a thoroughly revised edition, Jack Donnelly elaborates a theory of human rights, addresses arguments of cultural relativism, and explores the efficacy of bilateral and multilateral international action. Entirely new chapters address prominent post-Cold War issues including humanitarian intervention, democracy and human rights, "Asian values," group rights, and discrimination against sexual minorities.
Jonathan Glover (Yale Nota Bene: Sep 1, 2001)
English ethicist Jonathan Glover begins with the now commonplace observation that the last 100 years were perhaps the most brutal in all history. But the problem wasn't that human nature suddenly took a sharp turn for the worse: "It is a myth that barbarism is unique to the twentieth century: the whole of human history includes wars, massacres, and every kind of torture and cruelty," he writes. Technology has made a huge difference, but psychology has remained the same — and this is what Glover seeks to examine, through discussions of Nietzsche, the My Lai atrocity in Vietnam, Hiroshima, tribal genocide in Rwanda, Stalinism, Nazism, and so on. There is much history here, but Humanity is fundamentally a book of philosophy. In his first chapter, for instance, Glover announces his goal "to replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality." But he also seeks "to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and more humane, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery." The result is an odd combination of darkness and light — darkness because the subject matter of the 20th century's moral failings is so bleak, light because of Glover's earnest optimism, which insists that "keeping the past alive may help to prevent atrocities".
John Kells Ingram (Adamant Media Corporation: September 2000), 163 pages.
Kevin Bales (University of California: July 1, 2000)
Slavery is illegal throughout the world, yet more than twenty-seven million people are still trapped in one of history's oldest social institutions. Kevin Bales's heart-wrenching story of slavery today reaches from brick kilns in Pakistan and brothels in Thailand to the offices of multinational corporations. His investigation of conditions in Mauritania, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, and India reveals the tragic emergence of a "new slavery," one intricately linked to the global economy. The new slaves are not a long-term investment as was true with older forms of slavery, explains Bales. Instead, they are cheap, require little care, and are disposable. Bales offers suggestions for combating the new slavery and provides examples of very positive results from organizations such as Anti-Slavery International, the Pastoral Land Commission in Brazil, and the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan.
The Genesis of Justice Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law
Alan M. Dershowitz (Warner: Mar 1, 2000), 288 pages.
Dershowitz turns to 10 stories from Genesis to demonstrate how the Bible provides a basis for contemporary ideas about justice and injustice. The narratives deal with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Dina, Tamar and Joseph. Dershowitz includes a translation of each story, recounts some theological commentaries and offers his own interpretations. He acknowledges the failings of the biblical characters, pointing out that they were guilty of deception, lust, crime, incest, revenge and murder. Their problematic actions highlighted the need for the laws that appear later in the Torah, starting with Exodus and the Ten Commandments. The book concludes with four chapters on "The Genesis of Justice in the Injustice of Genesis." Dershowitz argues that the "bad actions" depicted in Genesis gave rise to the "common law of justice." He addresses the question of theodicy, claiming that the belief in the hereafter solves the problem of why evil exists on earth. Finally, he asserts that the stories he has examined explain the need for judicial codes. The book makes an important contribution by clearly validating this claim, although Dershowitz disregards the stories' significance as a basis for moral and ethical development. ~ Publishers Weekly
Gary A. Haugen (InterVarsity: July 1, 1999)
International news accounts describe mind-blowing horrors of child prostitution, state-sponsored religious persecution, racial violence, torture and genocide. What can we possibly do in response? Can ordinary Christians make a difference? And where is the God of justice? The good news about injustice is that God is against it. Gary Haugen explains that God is in the business of using the unlikely to accomplish justice and mercy. This book offers stories of courageous Christians who have stood up for justice and also calls the body of Christ to action. Haugen provides concrete guidance on how Christians can rise up to seek justice throughout the world.