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Lecture 22 - Human Rights

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 1000
Martin Breaugh

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March 21, 2011
Unifying factor of contemporary society is equality
Right to own property quickly distinguish people from those who have and those who do not
have, therefore it’s divisive, creates a division or gap
This is very strange
Economic liberties are actually divisive
Growth of economic inequalities (quantitative), at the same time, you can see the growth of
social equality
The gap between the ultra rich is huge despite the existence of an inclusive middle class
Explosion of differences between the rich and the over class
Social equality has to do with the symbolic relationship that exist in society
Existing ranks in society that no everybody is necessarily equal
Historically, women is known for being inferior to men
Symbolic relationships of women are subordinate to men is characterized
Contradiction between increasing economic inequality and social equality can only be explained
by looking at the nature of equality in contemporary society
What kind of substance of equality exist in our society
Pierre Manent’s reading of de Tocqueville will understand what kind of equality comes to be in
modern US society
“Equality of conditions” is the substance of democratic equality
Equality of conditions is tied in to “sentiment of human likeness”
Sentiment of human likeness means we feel more and more like each other, our institutions
consequently becomes more compassionate, we are able to relate to the plight of others
Because we imagine ourselves in their place
We could grow up in poor household, we want our society to treat others equality in social and
political institutions

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Human beings have only recently been able to feel for others, we do not believe that there are
substantive differences between people anymore
One of the justifications put forth by Athenians for slavery is that there is a difference of an
existing nature of slaves and non-slaves. “Slaves are like living tools” Aristotle
We agree that there are no differences in substance between human beings
Human rights
The equality of conditions is one of the Impulses behind the fortunes of human rights
Manent the notion of human rights is the common political and moral reference point in the
What’s behind the recent fortune of human right
The notion of human rights has indeed become the ultimate principle of morality and of
legitimacy in our society
Human rights received the unanimous support of liberal democracies
Even those who normally don’t care for human rights, (conservatives), today actively support
the extension of human rights across the world
The conservatives do not appreciate abstract principles
The unanimity to accept human rights is actually quite rare, to find societies to accept to such
extent with agreeing to an idea
This unanimous support ---- common doubt that we are exposed to explosive diversity
Manent tells us that this might be a somewhat superficial form of diversity , because
underneath it all, there’s a moral and spiritual sameness, which is unheard of in the long history
of human existence (we all believe in the same things, and human rights anticipates in the
spiritual and moral sameness)
This unanimous support for human rights is a recent development
The idea itself of human rights was developed in the 17th and 18th century in Western Europe
Both the Greeks and the Romans had no idea of human rights, and nor did medieval Europe
know of human rights

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Human rights will appear on the political scene with the American and French revolutions , 1776
and 1789
Both these revolutions will put the idea of human rights at the heart of democratic regime, and
from the outset (as soon as human rights appeared), human rights will be the object of a
sustained critique from both socialist and conservative theorists
Despite human rights receiving unanimous support today, the battle for human rights was hard
won and the victory might be more fragile than what it appears
So we can actually pinpoint a moment in history where human rights will become the
centerpiece of moral and spiritual life, and examine what happened in the 20th century for idea
of human rights to become unchallenged idea and unchallengeable idea
It is only in the 1970s and the 1980s that human rights will begin to rally more and more support
The ultimate triumph of human rights will have to do with the struggle against communist rule
in Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries.
A group of people known as the dissidents, we have to look at how these dissents attack the
form of domination in Soviet Union
A dissident is a citizen who decided to resist the autocratic rule of communism by appealing to
human rights, and by using human rights as their main political and intellectual weapon
The dissidents could have opposed communism on the basis of it being a less good regime than
liberal democracies
But they decided to only use the appeal to universal human rights, instead of opposing
communism by evoking democracy, the dissidents simply pointed out that under the conditions
of communism, the regime systematically abuse basic human rights
This is a relatively simple argument, Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries do not respect
human rights
The dissidents will build the case against the legitimacy of communist regime
They testify the illegitimacy of communist regimes
Regimes threw them in jail
By doing so, they actually proved the dissidents’ point, they did not respect basic human rights
to free speech
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