International Human Rights: Universalism Versus Relativism (Classics of the Social Sciences)
Alison Dundes Renteln
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Are human rights universal? Universalists and cultural relativists have long been debating this question. In INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS, Alison Dundes Renteln reconciles the two positions and argues that, within the vast array of cultural practices and values, it is possible to create structural equivalents to rights in all societies. She poses that empirical cross-cultural research can reveal universal human rights standards, then demonstrates it through an analysis of the concept of measured retribution.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS is a classic socio-legal study of the incompatibility and possible reconciliation of competing views of cultural relativism and absolute fundamental human rights. It features prodigious research and insight that has often been cited by academics and human rights lawyers and activists over two decades. Originally published in the Sage Publications' Frontiers of Anthropology Series, the book is now available in print and eBook formats from Quid Pro Books. Updated UN organizational charts are included in a new Appendix. The 2013 republication also adds a new preface by the author and a new foreword by Tom Zwart, Professor of Human Rights at Utrecht University.
As Professor Zwart notes, "The book caused quite a splash when it was first published, because its author asked many important questions which had not been raised before. She challenged some of the normativist assumptions which characterized the field.... All those involved in human rights research and practice owe a debt of gratitude to Renteln for writing this pioneering book.... Fortunately, this wonderful book, through its re-issue, will remain a very important reference text for decades to come, to be enjoyed by the next generations of students of human rights."
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS provides an unusual combination of abstract theory and empirical evidence. Written in an accessible style, it will interest scholars and students in political science, sociology, anthropology, peace studies, cross-cultural research, and philosophy—as well as human rights activists and the general reading public.
have a duty to respect “that security for personal liberty, or private property, for the protection whereof government was established” (Ibid.) and to uphold those rights which are “in their nature, fundamental” (Corfield v. Coryell). The United States discovered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries what has become apparent to the world since the Second World War, which is that local (“national” or “sovereign”) enforcement of the “great rights of mankind” fails in the face of petty
of the Republic. This Constitution, the international treaties, conventions and agreements approved and ratified, the laws of the Congress and other provisions hierarchically inferior, sanctioned as a consequence thereof, are an integral part of the national law” and Article 141: “[t]he international treaties validly entered into, approved by the Congress, and whose instruments have been duly deposited, become part of the internal jurisdiction according to the hierarchy determined by Article
post-colonial South Pacific societies. Indigenous Law Journal 5: 51. Corrin Care, J., and J. Zorn. 2005. Legislating for the application of customary law in Solomon Islands. Common Law World Review 34: 144. Jalal, P.I. 2009. Why do we need a Pacific regional human rights commission? Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 40: 177, 191. Muria, J. 1996. Conflicts in women’s human rights in the South Pacific; the Solomon Islands experience. Commonwealth Judicial Journal 11(4): 7. Olowu, D.
addressed to Japan that “[t]he State party should establish an independent national human rights institution outside the Government, in accordance with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134,annex), with a broad mandate covering all international human rights standards accepted by the State party and with competence to consider and act on complaints of human rights violations by public authorities, and allocate adequate financial and human resources to the institution” (UN Doc.
Japan, Chap. 7; Croatia, Chap. 23). Collectivism could prevail over individualism in the judicial assessment process.9 With this approach a conciliation of the universality claim with cultural diversity could be reached. The core of a human right, however, must remain intangible. It remains doubtful whether, for example, “patriarchal attitudes” can be regarded compatible with the universal human rights claim for gender equality (Japan, Chap. 7). (c) “Universality through culture” approach which