Lecture time: 01/21/2014
C LASS N OTES FOR : P OLI S CI 3Y03
McMaster University, Fall 2013
T UESDAY , JANUARY 21, Y
1. OVERVIEW OF Last week
- Origins and concept of human rights and democracy
- We spent more time discussing when democracy came about
- The word democracy has become much like the word “freedom” something that everyone
- What else was said about the earlier origins of Democracy?
o Democracy comes from Greece but we tend to forget that the Greeks gave us
TWO expressions of democracy
TWO WAYS in which citizens participate in the so-called democratic
Demos - As gov’t of the people, for the people and by the people
Sparta and practice in Democracy - Gov’t not of the people but of the
These two families lived apart until they eventually converged
- Since democracy lacks a consensus of its definition, there is a tendency to DISTORT! We
tend to place adjectives in front of the word DEMOCRACY.
- Processes of democratic transitions - New democracies, are referred to as “new, limited,
low intensity, authoritarian democracy, etc.”
o Adjectives put in front of democracy, there is no clear idea of what democracy
o It has become a commonplace term in that everyone likes democracy, wishes
democracy and everyone has a different understanding, different conceptualization
of what it should be all about!
o By not spending some time trying to come to term about ‘democracy’important
things are not being discussed.
o We are not discussing the relationship between ‘democracy’and ‘equality’
o ‘Democracy’and social, economic and cultural rights
o We assume we want elections, etc. political democracy!
o We do not discuss the things that make democracy possible, what are the
conditions of democracy?
2. Origins of Human Rights
a. When it comes to human rights - We tend to believe that the institution of human
rights / culture of human rights is associated with the French Revolution
• The 1789 French Revolution: Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
• It is also to be found in the 1776American Declaration of Independence
• Almost everyone would agree that when we talk about human rights, the French
revolution is the historical circumstances that set the beginning, the insipient
development of human rights culture!
Angie © McMaster University 1
Winter 2014 Lecture time: 01/21/2014
• 1989 and relevance:
i. In 1989 the French tried to celebrate the 200 years of the French
Revolution; “we are the ones who established the universality of man, etc”
• The 1215 Magna Carta (Charter of Liberties)
i. Promulgated by King John!
ii. More than 500 years before the French Revolution
iii. Human Rights
iv. Our entire judicial system is based on the Magna Cart.
1. The right not to be imprisoned, nor to have the property taken
2. References to the Magna Carta as one of the first instruments
3. Rights of the NOBILITY
4. The right to fair trial, to be judged and not to be expropriated of
properties or belongings.
5. What fundamental principle comes from this paragraph?
a. HABEOUS CORPUS - This was taken away in 9/11 etc.
• The Cyrus Cylinder (2545 BC)
i. Much older than the French declaration and the Magna Carta!
ii. King Cyrus was a Persian King
iii. What is it that King Cyrus did? That he became known as the first person
to promulgate the first Human Rights code!
iv. Subjects have the right to keep their own religion and their religious
v. (1) Zoroastrian religion - but still allowed their own subjects to maintain
their own religious artifacts
vi. (2) He abrogated forced labour of the very same people that he had
conquered! People would not be FORCED to work!
vii. (3) Foreigners visiting the Persian Empire would be entitled to recognition
of certain RIGHTS. Even if you forget about religious freedom and
coerced labour or the rights given to foreigners!
viii. (4) Decision by King Cyrus to give freedom to Jewish people who were
then allowed the right to return to Israel
1. Jewish people left the empire, went to Israel where they built the
second temple of Jerusalem
ix. French Philosopher Voltaire - “The people who had first invented the right
of humanity are non other than the Persians!”
• The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of HR
i. Another strand of people who claim or believe that Human Rights became
institutionalized with 1948 declaration of HR.
• King John and the rights to the Nobility
i. No sooner had King John agreed to grant these rights that the Catholic
Church threatened him with excommunication!
ii. King John retracted from the Magna Cart!
iii. Led to a civil war in England
2 Lecture time: 01/21/2014
3. Rights only become Human Rights when they are:
a. For rights to become “Human Rights”
i. Citizenship rights, but not HUMAN Rights in the larger picture
ii. When do Rights become human rights?
iii. Human rights are natural, equal and universal?Are also joined and
accompanied by “empathy”
• Natural rights (inherent to human beings only)
i. Only making the references to human beings (men and women) we are not