debrennan.doc - Law Social Justice Global Development(An Electronic Law Journal Critique Culture and Commitment The Dangerous and Counterproductive

debrennan.doc - Law Social Justice Global Development(An...

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Law, Social Justice & Global Development (An Electronic Law Journal) Critique, Culture and Commitment: The Dangerous and Counterproductive Paths of International Legal Discourse Sebastian De Brennan, Researcher, College of Law and Business/ Australian Expert Group in Industry Studies, University of Western Sydney, Australia [email protected] This is a refereed article published on: 28 February 2005 Citation : De Brennan, S, ‘Critique, Culture and Commitment: The Dangerous and Counterproductive Paths of International Legal Discourse’, 2004 (2) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD). <;
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De Brennan, S Critique, Culture and Commitment Abstract This paper seeks to question some of the assumptions underlying certain strands of the ‘Third World Approaches to International Law Literature’ (TWAIL). For various representatives of this school, human rights is little more than an exercise in which the good western state is juxtaposed against the illiberal, immoral and draconian non-western one; a process said to derive from Eurocentric ideas of colonial superiority and domination, and sustained today by the west and major human rights institutions. This view has been propounded by Professor Makua Mutua who asserts that the human rights corpus can be reduced to a damning 'Savage-Victim-Saviour' (SVS) metaphor – a metaphor which pits 'savages' on the one hand, against 'victims' and 'saviours' on the other. Whilst illuminating, it is argued that the polarisation implicit in Mutua's construct is simply misconceived. Aided and abetted by globalization and an increasingly interdependent world, human rights, like all great traditions, has undergone monumental change. The human rights analyst's guiding fiction of certain compartments, chiefly the Savage-Victim-Saviour metaphor has evaporated. We can no longer deny a complex legal world. Keywords: Human Rights, Metaphors, International Legal Discourse, Legal Traditions, Jurisprudence, Polarisation, Third World, Western Culture. Author’s Note This paper was prepared during time at Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, Canada. Thanks are extended to both Osgoode and the University of Western Sydney for the opportunity. I am also grateful to Kate Graham, Christi Pearce and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable contributions. LGD 2004 Issue 2 Refereed Article 2
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De Brennan, S Critique, Culture and Commitment 1. Introduction It has been argued that the human rights movement is marked by a damning metaphor. That it is a ‘grand narrative’ containing a subtext that depicts an epochal contest pitting ‘savages’ on the one hand against ‘victims’ and ‘saviours’ on the other. The savages-victims- saviours (SVS) construction, it is proffered, is a three-dimensional compound metaphor in which each dimension is a metaphor in itself.
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