The riddle of human rights

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Humanity Books, 2005 - Business & Economics - 273 pages
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The idea of a single world order embracing all of humanity and resting on fundamental human principles has been a matter of philosophical speculation since antiquity. It was only in the aftermath of World War II, however, that such an idea, complete with specific standards of conduct, was actually proclaimed as universal and attempts were made to realize it. It came in the form of the United Nations' Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)--documents affirming certain principles that were asserted to be fundamental to humans and to constitute the ideals of an emerging world order. The definition of "human rights," however, has remained far from a settled matter, their legal status has been quite varied, their uses and enforcement have continued to be widely inconsistent between jurisdictions, and their violation has been ubiquitous. In The Riddle of Human Rights Gary Teeple makes the case that human rights are peculiar to a historically given mode of production; in other words, they comprise a public declaration of the principles of the prevailing property relations in a given time and place. Although human rights are proclaimed as absolute and universal, the reality is that nowhere in the world are they upheld as either absolute or universal--the ability to exercise the rights of the UDHR is everywhere circumscribed and relative to the imperatives of the powers that be. Teeple also explores the effects of globalization on the current and future exercise of human rights. He argues that the entire range of civil, political, and social rights is becoming subordinate to global corporate interests. In the wake of September 11, 2001, Teeple suggests that the threat ofterrorism serves as an excuse for the arbitrary abrogation of established rights and the violation of international law to further the demands of global capital.

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The Diverse Origins
The Absolutes
The Contradictions

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About the author (2005)

Gary Teeple is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University.

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