Commitment to the idea of cultural relativism is usually seen as precluding the acceptance of the idea of universal human rights. But is relativism against universalism a false dichotomy? Can we construct a differentiated universalism or a non-ethnocentric universalism? The doctrine of cultural relativism is based on the existence of different cultures which have produced different values. In this acceptance, universality of human rights does not exist, and this theory is nothing but a myth created by the West as a mean of pressure against the other States. Yet, a characteristic part of the claim that there are such things as human rights has been that they are universal, and that they are not subject to change over time, since they express the essential nature of human beings. One will focus on the controversy which exists between those who advocate for human rights relativism and those who support the idea of a universality of the latter, by trying to weigh each argument.
[...] Booth, in “Human rights in Global Politics”, argues that the universality of human rights has it roots not in the fact that we are human and that we share a common nature, but in the willingness that the species become human. Furthermore, it seems that all societies have concepts of hospitality and love, which are, as a result, cultural universals. The critique of universality ignores the degree of actually existing universality in terms of human rights. There are also various sorts of universality. [...]
[...] As stories of personals experiences show up, sentiments are the same whatever the cultural background are. As a conclusion, it is relevant that the concept of human rights and the question of whether they are universal or not are not simple. First, the argument for universal human rights results from the existence of a single cosmopolitan culture which is spread across all cultures, and which is represented by the common culture of modernity. Many opponents claim that there are several cultures but that they are producing different values, which cannot be transcended. They also argue [...]
[...] History also seems to be one way to question the legitimacy of each human rights theory, and in this respect, both Asian and western histories have to be analyzed, so as to understand the differences between the two different human rights doctrines. First, the introduction of the concept has encountered some reluctance in both areas. As a result, the two stories are not far from each other, but the classical critique made against the west is made against one of its main human rights theorist, John Locke, who based his doctrine on individualism. [...]
[...] Michael Freeman, in his “Human Rights: Asia and the West” essay, points out that there was no explicit concept of human rights in East Asian culture before the reception of western political ideas at the end of the nineteenth century. Confucianism, for example, laid the foundations of ethics in certain social relations and mutual obligations that were inherent to them. When we consider Asian objections to the human rights doctrine on the ground that it entails a domination of Asia by the West and that standards are alien to Asian traditions rest on a false point of view of these traditions, which are under constant change. [...]
[...] There exist different versions of human rights, those which consider that the concept of human rights is western and thus inapplicable to others cultures, and those which allows that the concept is universal but that it should be adapted in respect to the cultural context. The first conception is based on the belief that human rights are universal because they assign rights to every human being, just because they are human. Booth brings here a small nuance, because he thinks that from the perspective of historical humanity we are not destined, as a species, to be what we are ; rather we might be what we strive to become. [...]
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