Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Human Rights

The concept of human rights, including natural rights, stretches back centuries, and "the rights of man" were a centerpiece of the age of democratic revolution. But those droits de l'homme et du citoyen meant something different from today's "human rights." For most of modern history, rights have been part and parcel of battles over the meanings and entitlements of citizenship, and therefore have been dependent on national borders for their pursuit, achievement and protection. In the beginning, they were typically invoked by a people to found a nation-state of their own, not to police someone else's. They were a justification for state sovereignty, not a source of appeal to some authority—like international law—outside and above it.

1 comment:

  1. The last hundred years contain a lot of dispersions of those pretendedly universally valid human rights (each of these efforts being rather different). But there is a new approach: Human rights are not pursued but only monitored: The Human Rights Watch.