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The Idea of Human Rights

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

Table of Contents

    • Abbreviations ix
    • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
    • 1 Why there is a problem 1
    • 2 Forms of skepticism 3
    • 3 Approach 7
  • Chapter 2 The Practice
    • 4 Origins 14
    • 5 Doctrine 27
    • 6 Implementation 31
    • 7 An emergent practice 42
    • 8 Problems 44
  • Chapter 3 Naturalistic Theories
    • 9 Naturalism about human rights 49
    • 10 Persons “as such” (1): the demand side 59
    • 11 Persons “as such” (2): the supply side 68
  • Chapter 4 Agreement Theories
    • 12 “Common core” and “overlapping consensus” 74
    • 13 The appeal of agreement conceptions 77
    • 14 Progressive convergence 88
  • Chapter 5 A Fresh Start
    • 15 Human rights in The Law of Peoples 96
    • 16 The idea of a practical conception 102
    • 17 A two-level model 106
    • 18 “Manifesto rights” 117
    • 19 The role of states 122
  • Chapter 6 Normativity
    • 20 What human rights are for 128
    • 21 A schema 136
    • 22 Minimalism and social justice 141
    • 23 Toleration (1): the domestic analogy 144
    • 24 Toleration (2): the autonomy of peoples 152
  • Chapter 7 International Concern
    • 25 Anti-poverty rights 161
    • 26 Political rights 174
    • 27 Human rights of women 186
  • Chapter 8 Conclusion
    • 28 Residues of skepticism 198
    • 29 Pathologies 201
    • 30 Human rights and global normative order 209
    • Works Cited 213
    • Index 227