Anorak News | The Rise And And Rise Of Human Rights: Know Yours?

The Rise And And Rise Of Human Rights: Know Yours?

by | 31st, May 2007

human-rights.jpgTHE Rise And Rise of Human Rights. (Buy the book by Anorak’s Kirstin Sellars.) But what are they? Fabian Tassano wonders:

What is a “right”? Are there natural rights? Are any rights inalienable? You can argue till the cows come home, with little likelihood of generating useful insights.

I think the concept is best seen as an instrument of conflict between competing sources of power. In particular, the meaning of ‘rights’ at a particular time represents the ideological position at that time on the issue of state-versus-individual. When we had absolutism, talk was of the absolute rights of the state (monarch). As civil liberties developed during eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the language of ‘rights’ was increasingly used to express the idea that each individual has their own territory or area of sovereignty.

In the twentieth century, the concept swung back towards expressing the claims of the collective (in effect, the state) on individuals. In some cases, spurious terms such as ‘Volk’ or ‘proletariat’ were used to denote the collective.

We see this swing continuing today under Blairism, a philosophy which — for all the criticism directed at it by now from every corner — can readily be interpreted as an ideal expression of the prevailing Zeitgeist. The idea that the individual has a claim to be left alone by society (e.g. to smoke, or to eat supposedly unhealthy foods) has become, it appears, outmoded.

Posted: 31st, May 2007 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink