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Human Rights: Moral or Political?$
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Adam Etinson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198713258

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198713258.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 January 2022

Rights, History, Critique

Rights, History, Critique

(p.41) 1 Rights, History, Critique
Human Rights: Moral or Political?

Martti Koskenniemi

Oxford University Press

Rights are an inextricable part of contemporary domestic and international legal speech. They appear in political manifestoes and professional vocabularies and they are used to defend agendas of reform and retrenchment alike. The idiom of (subjective) rights has a long pedigree in Western legal and political thought. But its content and significance have varied by reference to the needs of the moment. Recently, efforts have been made to contextualize the use of rights as part of Western politics and law. This suggests viewing the expansion of rights-talk as inextricable from the globalization of Western political ideas and the universalization of typical Western preferences. This chapter examines some of those uses. The idea is not to find the “origin” of rights (for there is no such single origin) but to enquire into the meaning, power, and limits of a ubiquitous form of politico-legal speech.

Keywords:   history of human rights, history of international law, critique of rights, history and philosophy, methodology of history

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