HREQ 3010 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Cultural Relativism, Human Security, Relativism

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HREQ 3010: Human Rights & Global Economy
Course Description:
Critically analyze various meanings, approaches and problems in the promotion of
human rights in the global political economy
Part I: Outlines how universal human rights are defined, measured and challenged from
a number of perspectives
Part II: Examines the global context in which human rights and rights discourse take
Part III: Explores a number of human rights issues and the impediments to the
realization of these rights
Part I: Theorizing Rights
September 17th: Do Human Rights Matter?
Human rights are complex and controversial
oNot everyone agrees they are a worthy goal of society
oWhat is a right? There’s no agreement on what exactly makes up a “right”
6 historical controversies (Micheline Ishav)
Origin of human rights
Enlightenment legacy
Socialist contribution
Cultural relativism vs. universalism
Tension between security and human security
Does globalization advance human rights?
oOur record of rights protection and enforcement
3 types of analysis (of human rights)
oPositive (the way things are)
oNormative (the way things should/ought to be)
oPrescriptive (how to get to where things should be)
September 24th: Defining and Measuring Human Rights
oTwo stories can be told
Cultural and religious consensus
“That there is a moral core, even ‘rights-like’ concepts, in all
cultures and religions”
oHammurabi’s Code (1172 B.C.)
Outlines moral principles of people, sanctions
punishments for those who transgress the law;
discusses how to marry, divorce, work the land
Differentiates between rights of free individuals vs.
the rights of commoners
oHinduism and Buddhism
Five freedoms
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Five virtues
oJewish bible
Eye for an eye
Love thy neighbour as thyself
Basic economic rights (food, housing, poverty
Ubuntu (human is a human because of other
human beings)
‘Historical Evolution’ account
That we can all progress and that there is a happy ending
There is an intersection between particular (usually Western)
forms of human rights, democracy, the market economy, etc.; and
that we should all aspire to evolve towards these ideals
In order for human rights to take root, the prevailing notions of
arbitrary rule needed to be challenged
oDivine right of kings
Hammurabi’s code: a system of law
Magna Carta (1215 AD)
Natural law and social contract
oJohn Locke
In a state of nature, all men are free
In order to maintain freedom, men and women
enter in a social contract held together by a
Government responsibility to guarantee basic rights
(life, liberty, property)
Protected environment in which modern rights
discourse could take place
Revolutionary middle class
First generation rights
Second generation rights
Third generation or solidarity rights
Four schools of thought
The natural school
The deliberative school
The protest school
The discourse school
Problems of measuring human rights
oDirectly observable objects vs. abstract concepts
oStandard system of measurement vs. invented system of measurement
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