The Parochial Argument

Arvind Sharma

in Are Human Rights Western?

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

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This chapter examines the argument that human rights are Western rather than universal because they disregard the cultural and moral diversity of the world, and are therefore not as universal as they claim to be. When they are viewed from the perspective of another cultural and moral tradition of the world, their Western character stands exposed. It is a classic example of something apparent from the outside but invisible from within. The chapter considers a Chinese critique of their Western character. Ironically, the ammunition is supplied by Western scholars themselves when they allege that there is no ‘word’ by which human rights can be translated into Chinese. The Hindu critique of the Western character of human rights follows a somewhat different course. Unlike China, which has a long history of at least the concept of a strong central government which was also periodically realized, relatively less civilizational attention has been paid to the state within the Hindu tradition. The various world cultures can criticize the concept of human rights as Western from their own cultural or religious perspectives and yet find elements of convergence with it in their moral discourse. One must guard against the danger of unwittingly substituting moral for cultural relativism. Human rights discourse, or any other discourse for that matter, despite its heavy dependency on Western models in the past, need no longer remain in that state of parochial dependency.

Keywords: human rights; universal; cultural relavitism; moral discourse; Chinese critique; Hindu tradition; parochial dependency

Chapter.  5166 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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