The Liberal Argument

Arvind Sharma

in Are Human Rights Western?

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679489
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081714 | DOI:
The Liberal Argument

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This chapter examines the liberal argument for the claim that human rights are Western. It states that human rights are Western inasmuch as they constitute a manifestation or an expression of the Western liberal society, both in a general and a specific sense. The general point sets up a contrast between a liberal society and an authoritarian society. To speak in very general terms, traditional societies are typically authoritarian. They tend to accept one way of understanding the world as unquestionably right, and to impose it upon the entire society either by law or at least by opinion. A liberal society, by contrast, is a tolerant society. It accepts that there are many ways of understanding the world, any one of which may prove to be right or partly right, and it is willing to allow a free competition between opinions vying for acceptance. But at the same time, as pointed out in this chapter, it is true that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights the so-called negative rights actually far outweigh the positive rights. Moreover, human rights documents include certain rights, which, although they are mentioned alongside the rights of the classical liberal tradition and whose inclusion in these documents may be attributed to the modern liberal tradition, yet have not found as firm a footing as the so-called negative rights. The relationship of liberal democracy and human rights is actually not as unproblematic as it might appear at first sight even in the West.

Keywords: free competition; classical liberal tradition; modern liberal tradition; negative rights; positive rights; human rights; liberal democracy; liberal society; authoritarian society; United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; human rights documents

Chapter.  3508 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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