Chapter

The Modernity Argument

Arvind Sharma

in Are Human Rights Western?

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679489
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195679489.003.0017
The Modernity Argument

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This chapter examines the argument that human rights are Western in the sense that they are modern. The referent is now temporal and not spatial, as it is when they are described as ‘Western’. The argument is now diachronic rather than synchronic — in fact prophetic — for Europe's past is presented as the world's future. Whether we choose to talk in terms of evolution or of entelechy, this is the direction in which things are supposed to be headed. ‘Modernity’ could be emphasized in the sense of the recent origin as such of human rights. For if they are a recent development, to characterize them as ‘Western’ is to refer to a recent, unfolding phenomenon of which every culture can be a part without the sense of being a latecomer and crashing into a party in progress.

Keywords: human rights; modernity; Europe; diachronic argument; synchronic argument; culture

Chapter.  3222 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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