Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights

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Political Science
Political Science 3388E
David Hoogenboom

th November 14 , 2013 Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights: Lecture Traditional Societies  Cultural relativism debate and questioning human rights and this universalist debate  Donnelly has 2 arguments; HR product of the West o Argues that they can be applied everywhere o Culture should not stand as a barrier for the proliferation of human rights o HR envisions all citizens endowed with inalienable rights that entitle them to ewual concern and respect from the state  necessary  May have had duties but this does not equal human rights  Other osiceties today and in the past had elaborate systems of duties or rules included conceptions of justice and what was political legitimacy, they understood human flourishing, and these systems sought to recognize human dignity o NOT human rights but alternatives to human rights  Codes of conduct, did not give us any entitlement o Duties are not HR because they made no claim against unjust rulers o No one had any right against the existence of an unjust ruler Islamic Culture  Suggests that Muslims are regularly called upon through scripture, tradition, religious leaders and ordinary leaders to hrat others with respect and dignity  Encouragaed to pursue well-being and social justice  Thse are in fact values embedded in the declaration of human rights  Catch  duties appeal to divine command that establishes human rights  Practice tradionnally estalblsihed ot realize these values simply did not include equal and inalienable rights held by all human beings  We can make the broad conclusion that societies may have had something approximated attempts to respected human dignity but did not have human rights   May have had had something to approximate duties that offered how to treat others in a certain eay  Something that approximated attempts to respected human dignity but did not have human rights Pre Modern West  Looks like non-modern west like these other societies  Rulers had duty to further common good bt derived form divine commandment  Right was merely expected behavior of a ruler owed to god  Rulers had a duty to protect their citizens but this came from natural law, traditional arrangements and divine law. o Alternatives to the rights of all human beings o Did not owe anything to the people but rather to God  The notion of a right, referred to the expected behavour as written in law  Right and law were simply 2 ways of stating a dut  Concept of a right was the expected behavior or a dty in which one was required to fill in order to do what was right  According to Aquinas, an authoritarian ruler like any other human being, was obligated ot obey the natural law, and if a ruler was a tyrant, it was clear that he violated this obligation  Rulers could be violators of duties  obligations of the ruler did not owe to the people but to God instead  May be guilty of crimes against the people, it is against God and God’s law that he has sinned o Conveniently, only God is entitled to demand redress Social and not Cultural  By showing the similarities of the non-modern west, we must take culture out of the question for why HR emerged  Donnelly hopes to take culture out of the question for why HR emerged  Argue that we need another variable to help us understand why this concept of HR came about  Instead modern markets and states are better variables for understanding the emregdnece of HR  Variable that explains emergence of modern human rights  capitalism + social, not cultural o First emerged in the west because we had the goo and bad fortune to suffer from market states before other regions  Emergence of HR concept is not the resul of a particular culture experience but rather a produect of our social conditions  It was the social impact of the industrial revolutuo and consolidation of capitalism that demanded this concept of HR  Industrial revolution  bad time for everyone o Horrific conditions created a demand for something like a right  Product of these social conditions We Need to Rethink Cultural Relativism o Donnelly  The Problem: Want to recognize the importance of traditional values and institutions AND the rights of modern nations, states, communities and individuals to choose their own destiny o Problem arises when we face competing intuitions o Want to recognize importance of value sand institutions o Reminds as well as modern states and communities, and individuals to chose their own destiny  Solution: Culture is not static  Reminds us that culture is not static, but fluid and every changing  So what? Culture is sometimes used to support old, outdated ideas.  Culture is still important, but it should not deny people basic human rights.  Problem  culture continually being used as an explanatory tool, hear people say its because of their culture we cant adopt HR o This explanation is based on old beliefs not shared by the majority o Culture and the use of culture is just a mask for other interests  Culture is still strong, but it should not deny people their basic human rights  Argues that HR provide people woththe meansof rejecting or modifying traditions,  If a women wants to work outside the home that should be allowed, if however, a women wants to pursue traditional roles, that should be okay as well o The key is that she has the right to chose The Key is, the Right to Chose  Doesn’t bulldoze over culture  May be pressure from family or community to conform to traditional roles  The state should provide protection if a women decides to reject the traditional roles So… (1) Human rights emerged in West first. (2) Culture does not explain their emergence, rather, they are a result of social conditions (3) If culture does not explain the emergence of human rights AND culture is fluid and ever-changing, given a little time and effort, the concept of human rights can (will?) take hold everywhere. (1) Does not have to be at odds with non-western cultures (2) Culture should not be used to prevent the emergence of HR (3) With the consolidation of the state system the global marketplace, given the fluidity of culture, he argues it is only a mater of time and effort for HR to take hold everywhere. Foucault and Human Rights  Do we swallow the pill? o The Matrix  taking the pill and seeing that the world around is isn’t the same as when we were a child o We are enslaved in power structures Perspectives on HR  Optimists’ Perspective – Power to the people o Growth of international human rights law is changing the relationship between people and their state in that people are increasing their power vis-à-vis the state. o Power to challenge the state  Pessimists’ Perspective – Power over people o Human rights promote a particular conception of individuals that, when put into practice, supports the interests of global capital.  Coopted to support global capital  Emerged out of people who wanted and demanded  overtime expanded and taken over  Discourse  can be defined as systems of thought which are made up of ideas, beliefs, and practices that construct the worlds of which we speak o Language we use is not simply a thing we use to describe reality o Go beyond this language; language must be understood as actually constructing the world around us, gives us meaning o Rise in water level that leads to a flood, its an event that takes place independently of our language, thoughts, and our talk  Everybody drowns if they are in the wrong place, irrespective of what they say  Rise in water level is a material fact, existing outside language/discourses  As soon as people try and give meaning to it, material fact of flood no longer exists outside of discourse  The flood is a natural phenomenon, but not everyone would describe it the same; global warming discourse, gov’t failure to maintain functioning systems, or some might see it as a manifestation of gods will, (religious discourse), or arrival of Armageddon. = different discourses and perspectives. Power  In traditional polisci, we have considered power to be the ability of actor X to get actor Y to do a desired action or inaction, this is power o Bob can make Frank mow his lawn o If you take out Bob’s power, action will not occur o Functioning of power o Power is reduced to the intentions, properties and desires of an agent.  Traditional Conception o X (acting on) Y = A (desired action or inaction) o Y – X  A  Foucault’s Conception; analytic o Attempts to overcome this reductionist understanding of power; wants to overcome this reductionist vision of power that reduces power to coercion. o Power works in different ways; 2 things  Power is not possessed by a single agent; mediate power by regulating behavior, their own behavior  When agents use power, they act as a go between the dominant view and others; vehicle for power  not enough to point to a single agent and say they are wielding power, I.e. US o Does not give us complete understanding of functioning of power o What matters are the structures that set the standards for expected behavior o Power function through standards of the accepted behavior of us all  Power is positive; produces certain behaviors  Power exists in the dominant discourses, that set accepted behaviors  Tells us what is normal and acceptable in society  Power is exercised over oneself; subject your action and behavior to relation o Willingly adopt forms of behavior accepted by dominant discourse in society o Power produces behavior  These discourses are meeting places for power and knowledge  These discourses that set what is normal are fundamentally related to knowledge therefore there can be no possible exercise of power without production of knowledge or truth  Power is fixed in the accepted forms of knowledge, scientific understandings and truth o Power within that discourse, being exercised because you buy into this as truth, and regulates you behavior accordingly  Knowledge of the economy is based on adamant individuals who behave on their own accord; o We are rational maximizers o Assumes we are cold, calculating beings; base all decisions on cost benefit analyses o Cannot be understood outside of power  Power produces certain behaviours  Gov’t in broader terms as well Governmentality  Gov’t as the regulation of the conduct of others  How do they regulate our conduct? Laws and policies, police  When a gov’t acts in ways that people regulate their own behavior; fear of jail  There are various instruments in society that attempt to regulate our behavior  Also regulated by health and school codes of conduct, all around us  Foucault  these function according to a particular rationality; can change  Governmentality = government + rationality  Defined as regulating and governing the populations of states through a particular rationality – that is, the accepted regimes of truth of a society that imposes certain definitions of normality Liberalism  As a rationality of gov’t, neoliberalism  Connects us to that rational actor model  Rationality, how you should behave  liberal discourse  View liberalism as  what are liberals concerned about? o Say that individuals are the most important; minimum state interference o By viewing humans as rational maxim, the liberal rationality asserts that our well -being is best advanced when by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework, characterized by private property rights, free markets, and free trade.  Worried about the state, check the power of it o State exists to guarantee freedoms and rights, specifically private property rights.  We have become a conduit for power behaving according to dominant discourses  Two perspectives: o 1. As ways to challenge the power of the state o 2. As a disciplinary rationality that understands normal human behavior in terms of the rational- maximizers in which our well-being is best advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. So What?  Rights are both political tools for challenging government power and gov’ts, while also being conduits of power, which inscribe in us certain acceptable or normal behavior’s that are essentially forms of discipline. Readings Disciplining Global Society Intro  Optimists  hope for the future o The intensity and ubiquity of social networks promises to increase the demand to secure HR, democracy, and environmental protection for all. o The freedoms found in globalization lead to greater opportunities for protecting human rights  power to the people  Pessimists point towards the continued and widespread reports of civil, economic, social, and cultural values o Globalization provides a new context for further exploitation and subsequent violation of rights  power over people, interests of global capital  This article looks at the tensions and contradictions between these two approaches; following a discussion on the construction of global human rights discourses  The article concludes at the pretensions of law act to mask the socioeconomic normative framework that acts to discipline global society  This article argues that the hegemony if international law obfuscates the practice of human rights as a discourse of both freedom and oppression by looking at three HR discourses, political, philosophical, and legal Overlapping discourses o Philosophy  theories of justice, human need  Natural rights as norms for HR o Political  contextualize prevailing values in law/philo  Questions of power/interests associated with dominant conception of HR and expression of those as legal/philosophical o Legal legal norms > philo and poli.  International law, UN Charter, etc. Disciplining Global Civil Society  If a global consensus on HR is accepted, international law is an accurate assumption of consensus on discourses; but NO consensus st o Not a No longer a strait articulation of moral evolution in the 21 century.  Role of international law in the global order?  Why so privileged as a discourse where there is no consensus? o Insight on this through ‘discipline’  Social organization operating without coercion  Learned and practiced day to day, making social action predictable o Common sense  When a mode of thought or conduct is accepted as normal o Disciplinary power  conducted through data collection, observation, etc.  Normal and unacceptable behavior  Current discipline  Market Discipline  Market Economy o Economic growth and privatization o WTO, Worl
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