The Riddle of Human Rights

By Gary Teeple

© 2004

Demands for "human rights" and resistance to their violation are rarely out of the news. Yet their definition is far from a settled matter, their legal status is quite varied, their uses and defence widely inconsistent between jurisdictions, and respect for them is blatantly limited. If it is held that all humans are abstractly equal in the possession of these rights, there is little agreement on anything else about them. The "human rights" of the United Nations' Charter and Universal Declaration contain a host of inconsis­tencies and a mixture of truths and untruths that contradict the assumptions of universality and timelessness.

Gary Teeple makes the case that "human rights" are peculiar to an historically given mode of production; they comprise the public declaration of the principles of the prevailing property relations. In that they are proclaimed absolute and universal is no different than similar declarations and beliefs about the nature of principles arising in different social formations. Although the tenets underlying "human rights" are distinct from pre-capitalist rights in several ways, there is one very significant distinguishing characteristic: implicit within them are goals that are qualitatively different from any relations yet realized in existing social formations.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Row Rights
  • Page Count: 274 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.7in x 9.0in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 15181

Book Formats

SKU# HE000237

  • PUBLISHED MAY 2004

    From: $30.56

    Regular Price: $35.95

    ISBN 9781551930398

Quick Overview

Gary Teeple makes the case that "human rights" are peculiar to an historically given mode of production.

The Riddle of Human Rights

By Gary Teeple

© 2004

Demands for "human rights" and resistance to their violation are rarely out of the news. Yet their definition is far from a settled matter, their legal status is quite varied, their uses and defence widely inconsistent between jurisdictions, and respect for them is blatantly limited. If it is held that all humans are abstractly equal in the possession of these rights, there is little agreement on anything else about them. The "human rights" of the United Nations' Charter and Universal Declaration contain a host of inconsis­tencies and a mixture of truths and untruths that contradict the assumptions of universality and timelessness.

Gary Teeple makes the case that "human rights" are peculiar to an historically given mode of production; they comprise the public declaration of the principles of the prevailing property relations. In that they are proclaimed absolute and universal is no different than similar declarations and beliefs about the nature of principles arising in different social formations. Although the tenets underlying "human rights" are distinct from pre-capitalist rights in several ways, there is one very significant distinguishing characteristic: implicit within them are goals that are qualitatively different from any relations yet realized in existing social formations.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Row Rights
  • Page Count: 274 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.7in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    Teeple's work forces us to consider the ramifications of a narrow, legal conception of human rights in a world where the division between the state and civil society is becoming increasingly blurred. It is an innovative argument and an essential contribution to a literature blind to the limitations of this elusive concept.


    Labour / Le Travail

    [...] makes the reader aware of the human longings and needs which are the other part of human rights. One is able to recognize the fundamental ambivalence which characterizes all the 'theories' on and the practices of human rights in the West.


    Wolf-Dieter Narr, Freie Universitaet Berlin

    A singularly important contribution both to scholarship and the politics of the academic left.


    Harry Glasbeek, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  • Author Information

    Gary Teeple is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    The Riddle
    The Argument

    Chapter I: The Diverse Origins

    Civil Rights
    Political Rights
    Social Rights
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Chapter II: The Absolutes

    The Human in Human Rights
    The Assertion of Equality
    Rights as Inherent
    Rights as Indivisible and Inalienable
    The Assertion of Universality
    The Relativity of Human Rights

    Chapter III: The Contradictions

    In Principle

    The Contradiction in Private Property
    The Corporation and the Individual 
    Civil Rights and Social Rights 
    Political Rights and Corporate Civil Rights
    Human Rights and Institutionalized Religion

    In Practice

    The Unequal Rights of Men and Women
    The Rights of Children
    The Right of Self-Determination of Peoples

    Chapter IV: Rights Outside Capitalist Relations

    "Socialist" Countries
    Human Rights and the Third World
    An African Concept of Human Rights
    Islamization and Human Rights
    Human Rights and the Fourth World

    Chapter V: The Curious Unanimity

    Contradictory Demands
    Support from the Right
    Support from the Reformist Left
    The Meeting Ground of Left and Right: NGOs On the National Level
    NGOs on the Global Level
    Human Rights Watch 
    HRW on Cuba
    The Problem of Amnesty International
    The Meaning of Social Rights

    Chapter VI: The Future of Human Rights

    Globalization and Human Rights
    Non-Corporate Rights at the Global Level?
    Recent Global Mechanisms for Enforcement
    Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
    UN Ad Hoc Tribunals
    Compromised Commissions and Tribunals
    The International Criminal Court

    Chapter VII: Principles for the Future?

    Respect for Human Rights
    The "Corporatization" of the United Nations: "The Global Compact"
    The Meanings Implicit in Human Rights
    The Irrepressible Spread of Resistance

    Chapter VIII: September 11 and the New Behemoth

    Peace as a Problem
    The Need to Defend Global Class Relations 
    The Political Economy of Military Spending
    The Search for a Threat
    A Strategy Long in the Planning
    Global Ascendancy and "Full Spectrum Dominance"
    The Militarization of Space
    The Expansion of NATO
    New Technology for Civilian Repression
    Global Surveillance: Echelon
    A New Role for Nuclear Weapons
    "Benevolent Global Hegemony"
    The Question of Pretexts
    The Meaning of September 11: Its Aftermath
    Class War at Home
    Global Assertion of Dominance
    The Transformation of International Relations and Human Rights
    The Coming End of Liberal Democracy

    Appendix: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Notes

    Bibliography

    Index

By the Same Author(s)

Related Titles