PACS_126_ESSAY[1] - To accurately conceive human rights as...

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2 To accurately conceive human rights as both an international institution and as a universal principle of humankind, it is necessary to understand that they are a product of their time. That is to say that the theoretical, philosophical and social underpinnings of human rights are subject to change, evolve; as they do they may at times press against the social constructs that define them. For instance, Jeremy Bentham, an English jurist and philosopher, deemed natural and inalienable rights “…nonsense upon stilts…” (The Economist, pg.9). However some 200 years later, the “rhetorical nonsense” Bentham disparaged has become international law, and in some cases become a moral imperative. With this in mind, I turn your attention to the notion of “three generations of human rights.” The theory was originally advanced by the French jurist Karel Vasak, and he asserts that there are three generations of human rights: civil and political (1 st generation), economic, social and cultural (2 nd generation), and solidarity rights (3 rd generation). The climate of contemporary society compels us to concentrate specifically on the 1 st and 2 nd generations of human rights. Currently there is a rather contentious debate concerning the legitimacy, scope and priority of economic and social rights in relation to civil and political ones. 1 st Generation Rights, explicated in articles 2-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, delineate the inalienable civil and political rights of the individual (Burns, pg. 18). They are, for the most part, considered to be negative rights; that is to say that they require the state to exercise a fair degree of restraint in order for the rights enumerated to be fully enjoyed. 1 st generation rights include freedom from slavery, freedom from torture, freedom from arbitrary arrest, etc… but for the purpose of
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3 exploring the relationship between 1 st and 2 nd generation rights, one of the most important of the civil and political rights is the right to own property. The right to own and retain one’s property was a fundamental interest fought for in both the American and French revolutions (Burns, pg.18). This is where liberal individualism, a tenet of Western political ideology, and the economic creed of laissez-faire collide with the 19 th century French welfare movements that embraced the socialist tradition of economic and collective equality. Out of the French welfare movement, 2 nd generation human rights were born (Burns, pg.19). This distinction draws the line of demarcation between 1 st and 2 nd generation rights, and may also provide an insight into the reluctance of some states to embrace 2 nd generation rights (Burns, pg.18). 2
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PACS_126_ESSAY[1] - To accurately conceive human rights as...

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