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The universal human rights concept and its roots in Western political thought

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The cultural relativist model.
    1. Community: Basic social unit.
    2. The book Human rights and International Relations.
  3. The doctrine of cultural relativism.
  4. China's focus on community and obligations.
  5. The claim that human rights are universal.
  6. Questioning the legitimacy of each human rights theory.
    1. The liberal theory of human rights.
    2. The Bangkok principle.
    3. Richard Rorty's proposal for a solution.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

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 [...]

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