Department/School

Sociology and Anthropology

Abstract

The belief in innate human rights has enjoyed increasing currency worldwide. Despite its Western philosophical origins and the active opposition of some Islamic, Confucian, and indigenous anti-colonial regimes, the idea that all individuals possess inalienable rights to life, liberty, and a basic economic livelihood has achieved what amounts to a near-universal veneration. why has this happened? What makes human rights such a sacred idea in today's world?

Clearly, the theology of human rights has been fostered by increased global social interconnections, not the least of which has been the late-20th century communications revolution. Yet this trend is more importantly the result of a moral individualism called forth by the structure an in interdependent late modernity. The belief in the sacredness of human rights both expresses this individualism and serves as a counter-weight to the anti-systemic and neo-particularistic ideologies that globalization also creates. The battle between universal human rights and resurgent nationalisms is thus the theological battle of our age. Yet it is not just an intellectual but a social battle; by laying bare its social underpinnings, this paper opens the way to predicting its outcome.

Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Philosophical Alternatives (Философски Алтернативи, Bulgaria)

Publication Date

1998

Volume

7

Issue

2

Pages

62-70

Comments

Original appeared in Bulgarian. Translated from English by N.B. Todorova.

Document Version

Preprint