Relativism and Rights

Ronald Niezen

in The Origins of Indigenism

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780520235540
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936690 | DOI:
Relativism and Rights

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This chapter deals with the two important theoretical/philosophical problems facing the human rights movement: relativism and collective rights. If the relativist idea of cultural contingency in moral standards is professed, and conversely rejected in any form of ethical universality, it is likely to support the notion that discrete societies are themselves the best source of values, guidance, and growth for individuals. On the other hand, if one admits to a universal code of ethics, one that transcends all cultures, times, and places, he or she becomes interested in protecting individuals, making cultural affiliation a matter of choice. Collective/individual rights are a legal policy outcome of one's position on cultural relativism, an outcome that is even now being contested, with the political and economic stakes increasing, in efforts to set human rights standards for indigenous peoples. To properly handle these issues, the chapter is separated in legal and policy implications of collective rights from the more philosophical and, in practical terms, insoluble questions posed by relativism.

Keywords: philosophical problems; theoretical problems; cultural relativism; code of ethics; policy implications; legal implications

Chapter.  18374 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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