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Human Rights and the Borders of SufferingThe Promotion of Human Rights in International Politics$
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Anne Brown

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780719061059

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719061059.001.0001

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The construction of human rights: dominant approaches

The construction of human rights: dominant approaches

Chapter:
(p.19) 2 The construction of human rights: dominant approaches
Source:
Human Rights and the Borders of Suffering
Author(s):

M. Anne Brown

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719061059.003.0002

In his work on human rights in international relations, R. J. Vincent states that ‘human rights’ is a readily used term that has become a ‘staple of world politics’. This chapter examines some of the orders of thought that dominate human rights promotion and shape the meaning of this powerful, complex and in some ways contradictory tool of rights and ‘rights talk’. First, it considers the polarity of universalism and relativism that structures much of what it is possible to say on human rights. Second, it looks at the story of the Lockean social contract, as one still potent myth of the origin for human rights and more broadly as a mechanism for conceptualising the human political community and ethics in the liberal state. The chapter questions the adequacy of these constructions for responding to the complexity of systemic infliction of injury. It then looks at the dominant theoretical accounts of international politics that have formed a central platform for the debate and, to some extent, for practice regarding rights in the international arena.

Keywords:   human rights, rights promotion, international relations, international politics, rights talk, universalism, relativism, social contract, political community, ethics

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