Sociology and Anthropology


Presents the history of the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, focusing on the prior status of human rights in international law and the cultural/ideological aspects of the debates surrounding its adoption. This chapter shows both the Western origin of the core human rights concepts and the positive-law nature of the Universal Declaration. it also shows that the cultural issues were present from the very start of the modern human rights era.

Document Type



This is a completed chapter, written in 1999, from a long-abandoned book. I encountered conceptual difficulties with the book as a whole, though not with this chapter. I may pick up the ideas again, but who knows in what form? In the meantime, many people, including my students, have found this summary useful.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.