Everything you need to read about Human Rights

Michael Ignatieff draws on his extensive experience as a writer and commentator on world affairs to present a penetrating account of the successes, failures, and prospects of the human rights revolution. Since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, this revolution has brought the world moral progress and broken the nation-state's monopoly on the conduct of international affairs. But it has also faced challenges. Ignatieff argues that human rights activists have rightly drawn criticism from Asia, the Islamic world, and within the West itself for being overambitious and unwilling to accept limits. It is now time, he writes, for activists to embrace a more modest agenda and to reestablish the balance between the rights of states and the rights of citizens.


Ignatieff begins by examining the politics of human rights, assessing when it is appropriate to use the fact of human rights abuse to justify intervention in other countries. He then explores the ideas that underpin human rights, warning that human rights must not become an idolatry. In the spirit of Isaiah Berlin, he argues that human rights can command universal assent only if they are designed to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals to lead the lives they wish. By embracing this approach and recognizing that state sovereignty is the best guarantee against chaos, Ignatieff concludes, Western nations will have a better chance of extending the real progress of the past fifty years. Throughout, Ignatieff balances idealism with a sure sense of practical reality earned from his years of travel in zones of war and political turmoil around the globe.


Based on the Tanner Lectures that Ignatieff delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2000, the book includes two chapters by Ignatieff, an introduction by Amy Gutmann, comments by four leading scholars--K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher--and a response by Ignatieff.
`An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot . . . it will march on the horizon of the world and it will conquer.' Thomas Paine was the first international revolutionary. His Common Sense (1776) was the most widely read pamphlet of the American Revolution; his Rights of Man (1791-2) was the most famous defence of the French Revolution and sent out a clarion call for revolution throughout the world. He paid the price for his principles: he was outlawed in Britain, narrowly escaped execution in France, and was villified as an atheist and a Jacobin on his return to America. Paine loathed the unnatural inequalities fostered by the hereditary and monarchical systems. He believed that government must be by and for the people and must limit itself to the protection of their natural rights. But he was not a libertarian: from a commitment to natural rights he generated one of the first blueprints for a welfare state, combining a liberal order of civil rights with egalitarian constraints. This collection brings together Paine's most powerful political writings from the American and French revolutions in the first fully annotated edition of these works. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
Defended by a host of passionate advocates and organizations, certain standard human rights have come to represent a quintessential component of global citizenship. There are, however, a number of societies who dissent from this orthodoxy, either in general or on particular issues, on the basis of political necessity, cultural tradition, or group interest.

Human Rights in World History takes a global historical perspective to examine the emergence of this dilemma and its constituent concepts. Beginning with premodern features compatible with a human rights approach, including religious doctrines and natural rights ideas, it goes on to describe the rise of the first modern-style human rights statements, associated with the Enlightenment and contemporary antislavery and revolutionary fervor. Along the way, it explores ongoing contrasts in the liberal approach, between sincere commitments to human rights and a recurrent sense that certain types of people had to be denied common rights because of their perceived backwardness and need to be "civilized". These contrasts find clear echo in later years with the contradictions between the pursuit of human rights goals and the spread of Western imperialism.

By the second half of the 20th century, human rights frameworks had become absorbed into key global institutions and conventions, and their arguments had expanded to embrace multiple new causes. In today’s postcolonial world, and with the rise of more powerful regional governments, the tension between universal human rights arguments and local opposition or backlash is more clearly delineated than ever but no closer to satisfactory resolution.

Human rights offer a vision of international justice that today’s idealistic millions hold dear. Yet the very concept on which the movement is based became familiar only a few decades ago when it profoundly reshaped our hopes for an improved humanity. In this pioneering book, Samuel Moyn elevates that extraordinary transformation to center stage and asks what it reveals about the ideal’s troubled present and uncertain future. For some, human rights stretch back to the dawn of Western civilization, the age of the American and French Revolutions, or the post–World War II moment when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was framed. Revisiting these episodes in a dramatic tour of humanity’s moral history, The Last Utopia shows that it was in the decade after 1968 that human rights began to make sense to broad communities of people as the proper cause of justice. Across eastern and western Europe, as well as throughout the United States and Latin America, human rights crystallized in a few short years as social activism and political rhetoric moved it from the hallways of the United Nations to the global forefront. It was on the ruins of earlier political utopias, Moyn argues, that human rights achieved contemporary prominence. The morality of individual rights substituted for the soiled political dreams of revolutionary communism and nationalism as international law became an alternative to popular struggle and bloody violence. But as the ideal of human rights enters into rival political agendas, it requires more vigilance and scrutiny than when it became the watchword of our hopes.
In 1993, as a 23-year-old correspondent covering the wars in the Balkans, I was initially comforted by the roar of NATO planes flying overhead. President Clinton and other western leaders had sent the planes to monitor the Bosnian war, which had killed almost 200,000 civilians. But it soon became clear that NATO was unwilling to target those engaged in brutal "ethnic cleansing." American statesmen described Bosnia as "a problem from hell," and for three and a half years refused to invest the diplomatic and military capital needed to stop the murder of innocents. In Rwanda, around the same time, some 800,000 Tutsi and opposition Hutu were exterminated in the swiftest killing spree of the twentieth century. Again, the United States failed to intervene. This time U.S. policy-makers avoided labeling events "genocide" and spearheaded the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers stationed in Rwanda who might have stopped the massacres underway. Whatever America's commitment to Holocaust remembrance (embodied in the presence of the Holocaust Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.), the United States has never intervened to stop genocide. This book is an effort to understand why. While the history of America's response to genocide is not an uplifting one, "A Problem from Hell" tells the stories of countless Americans who took seriously the slogan of "never again" and tried to secure American intervention. Only by understanding the reasons for their small successes and colossal failures can we understand what we as a country, and we as citizens, could have done to stop the most savage crimes of the last century.
Ever since Nelson Mandela dramatically walked out of prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years behind bars, South Africa has been undergoing a radical transformation. In one of the most miraculous events of the century, the oppressive system of apartheid was dismantled. Repressive laws mandating separation of the races were thrown out. The country, which had been carved into a crazy quilt that reserved the most prosperous areas for whites and the most desolate and backward for blacks, was reunited. The dreaded and dangerous security force, which for years had systematically tortured, spied upon, and harassed people of color and their white supporters, was dismantled. But how could this country--one of spectacular beauty and promise--come to terms with its ugly past? How could its people, whom the oppressive white government had pitted against one another, live side by side as friends and neighbors?

To begin the healing process, Nelson Mandela created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by the renowned cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Established in 1995, the commission faced the awesome task of hearing the testimony of the victims of apartheid as well as the oppressors. Amnesty was granted to those who offered a full confession of any crimes associated with apartheid. Since the commission began its work, it has been the central player in a drama that has riveted the country. In this book, Antjie Krog, a South African journalist and poet who has covered the work of the commission, recounts the drama, the horrors, the wrenching personal stories of the victims and their families. Through the testimonies of victims of abuse and violence, from the appearance of Winnie Mandela to former South African president P. W. Botha's extraordinary courthouse press conference, this award-winning poet leads us on an amazing journey.

Country of My Skull captures the complexity of the Truth Commission's work. The narrative is often traumatic, vivid, and provocative. Krog's powerful prose lures the reader actively and inventively through a mosaic of insights, impressions, and secret themes. This compelling tale is Antjie Krog's profound literary account of the mending of a country that was in colossal need of change.
Human rights activists frequently claim that human rights are indivisible, and the United Nations has declared the indivisibility, interdependency, and interrelatedness of these rights to be beyond dispute. Yet in practice a significant divide remains between the two grand categories of human rights: civil and political rights, on the one hand, and economic, social, and cultural rights on the other. To date, few scholars have critically examined how the notion of indivisibility has shaped the complex relationship between these two sets of rights.

In Indivisible Human Rights, Daniel J. Whelan offers a carefully crafted account of the rhetoric of indivisibility. Whelan traces the political and historical development of the concept, which originated in the contentious debates surrounding the translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into binding treaty law as two separate Covenants on Human Rights. In the 1960s and 1970s, Whelan demonstrates, postcolonial states employed a revisionist rhetoric of indivisibility to elevate economic and social rights over civil and political rights, eventually resulting in the declaration of a right to development. By the 1990s, the rhetoric of indivisibility had shifted to emphasize restoration of the fundamental unity of human rights and reaffirm the obligation of states to uphold both major human rights categories—thus opening the door to charges of violations resulting from underdevelopment and poverty.

As Indivisible Human Rights illustrates, the rhetoric of indivisibility has frequently been used to further political ends that have little to do with promoting the rights of the individual. Drawing on scores of original documents, many of them long forgotten, Whelan lets the players in this drama speak for themselves, revealing the conflicts and compromises behind a half century of human rights discourse. Indivisible Human Rights will be welcomed by scholars and practitioners seeking a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding the realization of human rights.
"If one organization is synonymous with keeping hope alive, even as a faint glimmer in the darkness of a prison, it is Amnesty International. Amnesty has been the light, and that light was truth—bearing witness to suffering hidden from the eyes of the world."—from Keepers of the FlameThe first in-depth look at working life inside a major human rights organization, Keepers of the Flame charts the history of Amnesty International and the development of its nerve center, the International Secretariat, over forty-five years. Through interviews with staff members, archival research, and unprecedented access to Amnesty International's internal meetings, Stephen Hopgood provides an engrossing and enlightening account of day-to-day operations within the organization, larger decisions about the nature of its mission, and struggles over the implementation of that mission.An enduring feature of Amnesty's inner life, Hopgood finds, has been a recurrent struggle between the "keepers of the flame" who seek to preserve Amnesty's accumulated store of moral authority and reformers who hope to change, modernize, and use that moral authority in ways that its protectors fear may erode the organization's uniqueness. He also explores how this concept of moral authority affects the working lives of the servants of such an ideal and the ways in which it can undermine an institution's political authority over time. Hopgood argues that human-rights activism is a social practice best understood as a secular religion where internal conflict between sacred and profane—the mission and the practicalities of everyday operations—are both unavoidable and necessary.Keepers of the Flame is vital reading for anyone interested in Amnesty International, its accomplishments, agonies, obligations, fears, opportunities, and challenges—or, more broadly, in how humanitarian organizations accommodate the moral passions that energize volunteers and professional staff alike.
Freedom from Fear - collected writings from the Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San Suu Kyi's collected writings - edited by her late husband, whom the ruling military junta prevented from visiting Burma as he was dying of cancer - reflects her greatest hopes and fears for her fellow Burmese people, and her concern about the need for international co-operation in the continuing fight for Burma's freedom. Bringing together her most powerful speeches, letters and interviews, this remarkable collection gives a voice to Burma's 'woman of destiny', whose fate remains in the hands of her enemies. Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and leader of Burma's National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world's greatest living defenders of freedom and democracy, and an inspiration to millions worldwide. This book sits alongside Nelson Mandela's memoir Long Walk to Freedom. 'This book is bound to become a classic for a new generation of Asians who value democracy even more highly than Westerners do, simply because they are deprived of the basic freedoms that Westerners take for granted'The New York Times 'Aung San Suu Kyi's extraordinary achievement has been to confront the regime peacefully, reasonably and persuasively... [in] one of the most laudable continuing acts of political courage' Financial Times 'Such is the depth of passion and learning that she brings to her writings about national identity and its links with culture and language that she has attracted the admiration of intellectuals around the world' Sunday Times Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma's National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest in Rangoon in 1989, where she remained for almost 15 of the 21 years until her release in 2010, becoming one of the world's most prominent political prisoners. She is also the author of Letters from Burma.
Society is broken. We can design our way to a better one.

In our interconnected world, self-interest and social-interest are rapidly becoming indistinguishable. If current negative trajectories remain, including growing climate destabilization, biodiversity loss, and economic inequality, an impending future of ecological collapse and societal destabilization will make “personal success” virtually meaningless. Yet our broken social system incentivizes behavior that will only make our problems worse. If true human rights progress is to be achieved today, it is time we dig deeper—rethinking the very foundation of our social system.

In this engaging, important work, Peter Joseph, founder of the world’s largest grassroots social movement—The Zeitgeist Movement—draws from economics, history, philosophy, and modern public-health research to present a bold case for rethinking activism in the 21st century.

Arguing against the long-standing narrative of universal scarcity and other pervasive myths that defend the current state of affairs, The New Human Rights Movement illuminates the structural causes of poverty, social oppression, and the ongoing degradation of public health, and ultimately presents the case for an updated economic approach. Joseph explores the potential of this grand shift and how we can design our way to a world where the human family has become truly sustainable.

The New Human Rights Movement reveals the critical importance of a unified activism working to overcome the inherent injustice of our system. This book warns against what is in store if we continue to ignore the flaws of our socioeconomic approach, while also revealing the bright and expansive future possible if we succeed.

Will you join the movement?
Countries solemnly intone their commitment to human rights, and they ratify endless international treaties and conventions designed to signal that commitment. At the same time, there has been no marked decrease in human rights violations, even as the language of human rights has become the dominant mode of international moral criticism. Well-known violators like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have sat on the U.N. Council on Human Rights. But it's not just the usual suspects that flagrantly disregard the treaties. Brazil pursues extrajudicial killings. South Africa employs violence against protestors. India tolerate child labor and slavery. The United States tortures. In The Twilight of Human Rights Law--the newest addition to Oxford's highly acclaimed Inalienable Rights series edited by Geoffrey Stone--the eminent legal scholar Eric A. Posner argues that purposefully unenforceable human rights treaties are at the heart of the world's failure to address human rights violations. Because countries fundamentally disagree about what the public good requires and how governments should allocate limited resources in order to advance it, they have established a regime that gives them maximum flexibility--paradoxically characterized by a huge number of vague human rights that encompass nearly all human activity, along with weak enforcement machinery that churns out new rights but cannot enforce any of them. Posner looks to the foreign aid model instead, contending that we should judge compliance by comprehensive, concrete metrics like poverty reduction, instead of relying on ambiguous, weak, and easily manipulated checklists of specific rights. With a powerful thesis, a concise overview of the major developments in international human rights law, and discussions of recent international human rights-related controversies, The Twilight of Human Rights Law is an indispensable contribution to this important area of international law from a leading scholar in the field.
“[A] masterpiece . . . an astonishing book that will leave you questioning your own life and political views . . . Kidder opens a window into Farmer’s soul, letting the reader peek in and see what truly makes the good doctor tick.”—Nicholas Thomas, USA Today

In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Tracy Kidder’s magnificent account shows how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through a clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, wealth, social systems, and disease. Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes people’s minds through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.”

Praise for Mountains Beyond Mountains

“A true-to-life fairy tale, one that inspires you to believe in happy endings . . . Its stark sense of reality comes as much from the grit between the pages as from the pure gold those pages spin.”—Laura Claridge, Boston Sunday Globe

“Stunning . . . Mountains Beyond Mountains will move you, restore your faith in the ability of one person to make a difference in these increasingly maddening, dispiriting times.”—John Wilkens, The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Easily the most fascinating, most entertaining and, yes, most inspiring work of nonfiction I’ve read this year.”—Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News

“It’ll fill you equally with wonder and hope.”—Cathy Burke, People

“In this excellent work, Pulitzer Prize-winner Kidder immerses himself in and beautifully explores the rich drama that exists in the life of Dr. Paul Farmer. . . . Throughout, Kidder captures the almost saintly effect Farmer has on those whom he treats.”Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“[A] skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Pathologies of Power uses harrowing stories of illness, of life—and death—in extreme situations to interrogate our understanding of human rights. Paul Farmer, a physician and anthropologist with twenty years of experience studying diseases in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, argues that promoting the social and economic rights of the world’s poor is the most important human rights struggle of our times. A thoughtful memoir with passionate eyewitness accounts from the prisons of Russia and the beleaguered villages of Haiti and Chiapas, this book links the lived experiences of individual victims to a broader analysis of structural violence. Farmer challenges conventional thinking within human rights circles and exposes the relationships between political and economic injustice, on one hand, and the suffering and illness of the powerless, on the other.

Farmer shows that the same social forces that give rise to epidemic diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis also sculpt risk for human rights violations. He illustrates the ways that racism and gender inequality in the United States are mirrored in pathology, plague, disease and death. Yet this doctor’s autobiography is far from a hopeless inventory of human suffering. Farmer’s disturbing examples are linked to a guarded optimism that new medical and social technologies will develop in tandem with a more informed sense of social justice. Otherwise, he concludes, we will be guilty of managing social inequality rather than addressing structural violence. Farmer’s urgent plea to think about human rights in the context of global public health and to consider critical issues of quality and access for the world’s poor should be of fundamental concern to pathologists, medical students, and humanitarians in a world characterized by the bizarre proximity of surfeit and suffering.
The introduction of the Human Rights Act has led to an explosion in books on human rights, yet no sustained examination of their history and philosophy exists in the burgeoning literature. At the same time, while human rights have triumphed on the world stage as the ideology of postmodernity, our age has witnessed more violations of human rights than any previous, less enlightened one. This book fills the historical and theoretical gap and explores the powerful promises and disturbing paradoxes of human rights.

Divided in two parts and fourteen chapters, the book offers first an alternative history of natural law, in which natural rights represent the eternal human struggle to resist domination and oppression and to fight for a society in which people are no longer degraded or despised. At the time of their birth, in the 18th century, and again in the popular uprisings of the last decade, human rights became the dominant critique of the conservatism of law. But the radical energy, symbolic value and apparently endless expansive potential of rights has led to their adoption both by governments wishing to justify their policies on moral grounds and by individuals fighting for the public recognition of private desires and has undermined their ends.

Part Two examines the philosophical logic of rights. Rights, the most liberal of institutions, has been largely misunderstood by established political philosophy and jurisprudence as a result of their cognitive limitations and ethically impoverished views of the individual subject and of the social bond. The liberal approaches of Hobbes, Locke and Kant are juxtaposed to the classical critiques of the concept of human rights by Burke, Hegel and Marx. The philosophies of Heidegger, Strauss, Arendt and Sartre are used to deconstruct the concept of the (legal) subject. Semiotics and psychoanalysis help explore the catastrophic consequences of both universalists and cultural relativists when they become convinced about their correctness. Finally, through a consideration of the ethics of otherness, and with reference to recent human rights violations, it is argued that the end of human rights is to judge law and politics from a position of moral transcendence.

This is a comprehensive historical and theoretical examination of the discourse and practice of human rights. Using examples from recent moral foreign policies in Iraq, Rwanda and Kosovo, Douzinas radically argues that the defensive and emancipatory role of human rights will come to an end if we do not re-invent their utopian ideal.
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