Document Title

Human Rights, Religious Conflict, and Globalisation. Ultimate Values in a New World Order


Sociology and Anthropology


The belief in innate human rights has achieved quasi-religious status in the late-modern world. Despite its Western philosophic 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 is widely venerated. Surprisingly, this has occurred in a time of increasing religious fragmentation and discord. Religiously based conflict is more common now than at any time since the mid-1600s, and has torn many societies apart. Why is there a simultaneous growth of both religious divisiveness and quasi-religious unity?
This article suggests that increased globalization and the growth of an international division of labour have fostered both trends. Such structural characteristics of our global late-modern social order have made plausible key themes of the human rights discourse, especially its universalism. The same characteristics have spurred religious and ethnic particularism as an anti-systemic counter-trend. If this battle between universalism and particularism – the theological battle of our age – is as much social as intellectual, then democratic governance of pluralistic societies can only succeed by paying attention to such underlying social correlates.

Document Type


Publication Title

International Journal on Multicultural Societies

Publication Date









ISSN 1817-4574

Document Version

Publisher's version