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The Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 2014Volume I$
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Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldo

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190270513

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190270513.001.0001

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The Illogic of Cultural Relativism in Global Human Rights Debate

The Illogic of Cultural Relativism in Global Human Rights Debate

Chapter:
(p.17) The Illogic of Cultural Relativism in Global Human Rights Debate
Source:
The Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 2014
Author(s):

Lea Brilmayer

Tian Huang

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190270513.003.0002

The most important debate in contemporary human rights theory is between the universalist position that all people have identical rights and the cultural relativist claim that rights exist only in the context of particular communities. Cultural relativism attempts to deflect human rights–based criticisms by arguing that every community is entitled to respect for its community norms. Implicit in relativism is the assumption that human rights violations result simply from good faith cultural differences. But relativism, illogically, excuses even offenses that the state’s own norms do not permit. The true causes of most violations are corruption and lust for power, not cultural differences. The more heinous the violation, indeed, the more specious the relativist excuse. Cultural relativism cannot provide a basis for the rejection of human rights claims generally, when it excuses, at most, that minority of violations that are due to good faith difference of opinion.

Keywords:   cultural relativism, global human rights, international human rights, international human rights theory, universalism

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