Book

Are Human Rights Western?

Arvin Sharma

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679489
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195679489.001.0001
Are Human Rights Western?

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This book attempts to examine the assumptions that human rights are Western, that Westerners have ‘their own concept of human rights’, and that ‘Western ideas of human rights have dominated international discourse’. If Westerners have their own concept of human rights, and if they are ‘human’ rights at the same time, then the following question arises: In precisely what way are they Western? And if they were in some sense Western in 1948, are they still so in 2005? The book is organized as follows. Part I presents arguments which tend to claim that human rights are Western on the basis of their historical background. Part II focuses on arguments based on the secular basis of human rights. Part III engages the economic dimension of the issue, with the rise of capitalism and its role in the context of human rights constituting the distinguishing feature of this dimension. The arguments in Part IV involve concepts of universality, rationality, philosophy, and ethics, each in turn providing the basis for a set of arguments. Part V presents arguments in which the claim that human rights are Western is associated with the concept of modernity. Part VI comprises arguments regarding the alleged Westernness of human rights in which the religious element plays a major role. The experience of the non-Western world in relation to the West, as characterized by colonialism, imperialism, racism, and parochialism, constitutes a natural grouping by itself and forms Part VII of the book. Part VIII presents arguments that take aim at the Westernness of human rights, without necessarily resorting to larger frames of references which characterized the preceding arguments. Finally, Part IX brings together arguments which are related to the institutional dimension of the human rights discourse as distinguished from the ideological and other dimensions of the discourse.

Keywords: human rights; Westerners; secular basis; economic dimension; capitalism; universality; rationality; philosophy; ethics; modernity; religion; colonialism; imperialism; racism; parochialism

Book.  320 pages. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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Table of Contents

The Historical Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Moral Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Cultural Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Argument by Natural Law in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Argument by Law in Are Human Rights Western?

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Argument by Negative Rights in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Secular Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Argument via Individualism in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Egalitarian Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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The Capitalist Argument in Are Human Rights Western?

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