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Political Science 1020E Lecture Notes - Relativism, Cultural Imperialism, Human Security

Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 1020E

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Global Politics and Human Rights
Professor John Peter Humphrey: contributions to the writing of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not carry the status of international law
Realists: international law is an example of a self-interested cooperation in an anarchic
international system
Roman and British Empire: law of empires, not consensual states
Debates over Human Rights
Do we focus on the political rights of the individual or the socioeconomic rights of the
Are human rights a relative or universal concept?
The usefulness and effectiveness of international law to protect and promote human
rights and human security
Western individualism vs. Eastern collectivism
Amnesty international: all individuals should be protected from torture and repression
at the hands of the state
Jus cogens: peremptory norms that override all treaties of agreements
Relativism versus Universalism in Human Rights
Should certain practices, often claimed as integral to hose cultures, be universally
Some post-modern theorists reject the premise of a universal moral code, arguing that
norms and primciples are subject of a specific time and place
Rhetoric-laden UN resolutions, which can be seen as the soft law of cultural imperialism
R.J. Vincent: moral claims derive from, and are enmeshed in, a cultural context which is
itself the source of their validity
1. Japan=whale meat
2. Amsterdam= red light district
3. US= death penalty
Mid-late 19th century, human rights concerns were regarded as within the domestic
jurisdiction of rulers, changed because
1. Abolishment of slave trade
2. Providing humanitarian care of wounded soldiers
Human rights are about protecting people, shouldn’t be limited by the concept of a
Increase concerns for human rights because
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