The pursuit of grounds

M. Anne Brown

in Human Rights and the Borders of Suffering

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780719061059
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700365 | DOI:
The pursuit of grounds

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This chapter explores the debate between universalism and cultural relativism. Certain powerful accounts of sovereignty seem to be the primary hinge around which the terms of the debate between universalism and relativism turn. The power of sovereignty was the power (in principle) of the particularist government to override all other claims to (worldly) authority. Despite radical shifts in the state system since Westphalia, this broadly constitutive element continues to serve as a powerful inscription of particularism. State-building practices over several centuries ensured that they came to take on the mantle of a fundamental unit of political community, the sine qua non of human community and, to a greater or lesser extent, the theatre of ethical life. This chapter also considers the work of some contemporary theorists who have attempted in different ways to bridge or to circumvent the polarity of relative and universal, including Richard Rorty, Chris Brown and Andrew Linklater. Finally, it examines the ‘Asian Way’ debate regarding human rights in the international domain.

Keywords: human rights; universalism; cultural relativism; sovereignty; particularism; political community; Richard Rorty; Chris Brown; Andrew Linklater; Asian way

Chapter.  16482 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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