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Human Rights&Ethis paper

Human Rights&Ethis paper - Akunna Ibe Human...

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Akunna Ibe Human Rights &Ethics (Anth 150.10) Professor Shepherd Due: September 24 th , 2010 Paper I Universalism is the belief that all human beings are entitled to the same inalienable rights and that it is universally applicable despite differences across the world and through history. This implies that the rights that humans have are either biologically inherent in humans through genetics or that laws are God-given. The ethos by Michael Walzer named ‘Liberalism 1’ describes that rules defining rights are meant to be applied uniformly, regardless of the religious, linguistic or gender characteristics of the person with certain basic rights are considered as absolute. (Cowan in Cowan, Dembour and Wilson 2001:15) Universalism was supported by the creation of the Rights of Man that were proclaimed to be “inalienable, irreducible to and undeducible from other rights or laws, no authority was invoked for their establishment.” (Arendt in Goodale 2009: 46) One critique against this is Anthropology’s Position in the 1947 Statement of Human Rights. It suggests that there is no empirical evidence for universal rights. Rights movement actually aims to impose one version of how to live. The 1948 document assumes that all humans everywhere are essentially the same and that we function well without defining limitations. A basket of rights is therefore needed to protect sameness. Recognizing and acting upon the above is an unqualified moral good and to question this would be immoral. There are several relativist critiques of universalism. The first is that there is no agreement on what constitutes a moral base. “Standards and values are relative to the culture from which they derive, so that any attempt to formulate postulates that grow out of the beliefs or moral codes of one culture must to that extent detract from the applicability of any Declaration of
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Human Rights to mankind as a whole.” (Steward, Barnett in Goodale 2009: 26) The problem with universalism is that it needs to have world-wide applicability, but that is almost impossible seeing that ideas of right and wrong, good and evil are found in all societies and differ from society to society. The majority of things that we as humans do are part of the culture into which we are born. Sometimes, what is a human right to some people may be considered wrong elsewhere. A Universal Declaration of Rights limits people’s freedom to practice their culture to the fullest of their ability. Freedom is understood and sought after by peoples having the most diverse cultures The second is that universalist claims are based on either natural law or a claim of cultural superiority. The rights movement actually claims to impose one version of how to live. This critique goes further to say that maybe a Universal Declaration of Huaman Rights is the language of oppressive regimes. Sally Merry tells us in her work that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was written by leading members of the American Anthropological Association, allowing it to be seen as a new form of imperialism. (Merry in Merry 2003: 4)
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