Theories in the making of ideas of human rights, Definition of Human Rights

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What do u understand by human rights? Discuss the relevance of Social Contract theories in the making of ideas of human rights?

1. Introduction :

The Second World War showed that the state could not remain a moral black box to outsiders. After the Holocaust it became clear that standards were required for official conduct toward citizens, such that violation of these standards could license or even necessitate an international response. The language that postwar political leaders used to describe these standards was the <href=”#_ftn1″ name=”_ftnref1″ title=””>[1]language of human rights. Human rights were meant to fill the void in the space of moral evaluation and action that was created by the concept of state sovereignty, given that this void had become morally intolerable. The human rights documents that were endorsed after the war were attempts to spell out what officials should never again do to those with in their territories.

2. Human rights :

Human rights are rights that every human being has by virtue of his or her human dignity. These are the basic rights of each individual in any part of the globe irrespective of cast, creed, sex, age, color, status.<href=”#_ftn2″ name=”_ftnref2″ title=””>[2] It encompasses all social economic political, cultural anti-elements based on law of nature with the aim of ensuring justice, freedom and equality viz. individual and collective existence.

Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings which define relationships between individuals and power structures, especially the State. Human rights delimit State power <href=”#_ftn3″ name=”_ftnref3″ title=””>[3]and, at the same time, require States to take positive measures ensuring an environment that enables all people to enjoy their human rights. History in the last 250 years has been shaped by the struggle to create such an environment. Starting with the French and American revolutions in the late eighteenth century, the idea of human rights has driven many a revolutionary movement for empowerment and for control over the wielders of power, Governments in particular.

<href=”#_ftn4″ name=”_ftnref4″ title=””>[4]Human rights cover all aspects of life. Their exercise enables women and men to shape and determine their own lives in liberty, equality and respect for human dignity. Human rights comprise civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights and the collective rights of peoples to self-determination, equality, development, peace and a clean environment.

3. The Nature of Human Rights

The practical conception of human rights is quite different, and is more familiar from international politics than from the philosophical literature. On the practical conception, human rights define a boundary of legitimate political action. Human rights specify the ways in which state officials must and must not act toward their own citizens, where it is understood that violations of these human rights can morally permit and in some cases morally require interference by the international community. This practical conception of human rights is what <href=”#_ftn5″ name=”_ftnref5″ title=””>[5]one finds in the various proclamations and treaties on human rights, such as the Universal Declaration and the Convention against Torture. Here I will explore why it is worthwhile for philosophers to theorize more about human rights understood in this second, practical way, and also say a few words about how such theorizing might be done. Thomas Pogge’s account of human rights will provide the mileposts for the exploration of this topic.

4. Human rights and the question of legitimacy

The practical conception of human rights is an appropriate object for philosophical investigation. Any complete account of the rights of individuals will have a place for human rights so conceived, at least as long as the actions of state officials continue to have significant effects on the fates of those who reside in their territories. Yet of course once we understand human rights in this way, we want to know what human rights there are. Since asking the right question is often halfway to getting the right answer, I will first try to frame our question about practical human rights more precisely, before going on toward the end to suggest different ways that theorists might go about answering it.

5. The role of international political documents in human rights theory

I have suggested that the right question to ask about human rights practically conceived is this. <href=”#_ftn6″ name=”_ftnref6″ title=””>[6]What are the considerations that state officials must and must not take into account when acting in ways that will affect the possibility of those in their territory leading dignified lives, such that failure to take these considerations into account will constitute a failure of legitimate state action, which will permit or require outside intervention when such is both feasible and appropriate. How, then, to proceed when answering such a question? There are of course many different ways of setting out a theory.<href=”#_ftn7″ name=”_ftnref7″ title=””>[7] Here I will suggest a basic norm and a starting point, and then four possible paths for developing the theory of human rights practically understood.are searching for standards of legitimate state action, which when violated will legitimate outside intervention. Because our target is legitimacy, we should use, I believe, a basic norm of reasonable acceptance. This norm requires us to find standards for the exercise of political power that all individuals who are subject to this power would have reason to accept, whatever their cultural background or conception of value in life. This norm of reasonable acceptance is a variation on the Kantian imperative to respect the humanity of each individual, and it has been developed in different directions by theorists in the Kantian tradition like Rawls and Scanlon.

6. Strategies for theorizing of social contract :

<href=”#_ftn8″ name=”_ftnref8″ title=””>[8]The political documents on human rights have only received the actual agreement of politicians, which is not the same as the reasonable agreement of all individuals. We can seethes as an opportunity for theory, instead of as an impediment. One way to go about theorizing human rights is simply to check the documents already agreed to for biases that are predictable artifacts of the process of their endorsement. For instance, since it was political leaders instead of citizens who have directly endorsed and ratified the documents, we should expect the documents to be biased toward those interests that all political leaders have in common. For example, all political leaders share an interest in being free from scrutiny over corruption. Moreover, we should also expect the political documents to be slanted toward Western or perhaps better enlightenment values, since the nations professing these values have been politically much stronger in the times the political documents have been affirmed. Putting these two sources of bias together, a theorist might reflect on the fact that a human right against political corruption has not been declared in any of the various political documents that political leaders have agreed to, even though such a right may in many circumstances be just as important as the human right to democratic participation which hasoften been proclaimed.

7. The Social Contract Theories :

<href=”#_ftn9″ name=”_ftnref9″ title=””>[9]Social contract theory raises the possibility that the need for social order and certain inherent

Constraints might provide us with a natural basis for morality. While it might seem that there are

Strong incentives for social anarchy without an outside objective (and perhaps supernatural) source of morality, according to some philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, the incentive is built into the social system by the very nature of our existing among each other. The need naturally exists for us to form some sort of agreement to treat each other with basic respect and follow certain basic rules. That is, we find it most advantageous to form a social contract to base our <href=”#_ftn10″ name=”_ftnref10″ title=””>[10]lives in general and our moral judgments.

What would life without such a contract be like? According to Hobbes it wouldn’t be pretty!

Unbounded liberty can be very dangerous and life without any rules at all would, according to

Hobbes, be “solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.” But why should this be? Can’t we just live and let live? In a word the answer is no due to four important factors which together conspire to put us at odds with one another unless we form some sort of social contract to mitigate these factors.

1. Equality of need: We all have certain basic needs in common such as food, clothing, and shelter.

2. Scarcity: Factor one wouldn’t really be a problem at all except for factor two which is scarcity. There is not an unlimited supply <href=”#_ftn11″ name=”_ftnref11″ title=””>[11]of food, clothing, and shelter just to name the essentials. Economists know this all too well and often define economics as the study of the scarce allocation of resources which have alternative uses.

3. Equality of human power: Here is the factor that really creates a serious problem when combined with factors one and two. For a time, a few can perhaps take control and take what they want at the expense of everyone else. But, in the long run, this power cannot be sustained because one person’s weakness is another person’s strength. One person may have force on their side, but perhaps others have another advantage. In the end these differences tend to even out which creates a situation where everyone is, in Hobbes’ phrasing, at war against everyone else for the same scarce resources.

4. Limited altruism: One solution to the problem is to rely on the kindness of strangers (to paraphrase the famous play). But, this won’t work either since we all have limits to how altruistic we are. Let’s face it we are not infinitely compassionate towards our fellow human beings.

8. Human rights as a social contract:

Human rights refer to the “basic rights and freedom to which all humans are entitled “Examples of rights and freedoms include civil and political rights, right to life in liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law,<href=”#_ftn12″ name=”_ftnref12″ title=””>[12] the right of be a member of a cultural group, the right to food, to work or to receive an education.

”All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”

To explain how and why human rights become part of social expectations, some theories trend to designate the influence from part of some philosophers. Hume for example says that the human <href=”#_ftn13″ name=”_ftnref13″ title=””>[13]rights point to a moral behavior which is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution. Philosophers like Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau remark that we need a social contract to live with a minimum of security and to own economic advantages but we have to be subordinate to some rules from a legitimate authority to made respect the law. Socrates and his philosophic heirs, Plato and Aristotle also posited that a natural justice or natural rights exist

The development of this tradition of natural justice into one of natural law is usually attributed to the Stoics In the XIX the century Thomas Hobbes founded a social contract theory of legal positivism on what all men could agree upon: what they want or look for (happiness) was subjected to contention, but if the most important fear of men is a violent death at the hands of another, a natural law was how a rational human could assure them to survive and prosper. In <href=”#_ftn14″ name=”_ftnref14″ title=””>[14]Hobbes’ s opinion, the only way which could prevail or persuade them was to submit men to the commands of the sovereign. In this lay the foundations of the theory of a social contract between the governed and the governor. John Locke incorporated natural law into many of his theories and philosophy.

9. Conclusion :

Social contracts determine the set of endogenous human rights. Considering that a number of factors may reduce the competitiveness of the market, the international authority should thus take actions to enhance the efficiency of the market for social contracts. Future research may be able to further develop the antitrust approach to human rights law, explore the economics of nationalism, and empirically examine some of the predictions of the model, e.g. that rights are lower in countries where migration costs are higher.

10. Reference :

1, Hmanuel Kant, MelaphysicalEkmentsofJufice, trans. John Ladd (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Memill, 196% p. 80

2. hmanuel Kant, We&kernnoCassier, 1914). 6:380-81. (My translation.)

3. John Rawls, A 7heoq ofJustice(Cambridge: Hmard University Press, 1971), p. 36.

4. For a survey, see Shirley Robin Lawin, “MademPhilosophies of Law,” The GmtIdear T&,

1972 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1972). pp. 105-53.

5. Hmanuel Kant, The Philosophy oflow, frans. W. Hastie (Edinburgh, 1887). reprinted in Great

Bmksofthe Western World (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952). 42:436.

6. lahnRawls. “The Independence of Moral Theory,” Proceedings ondAddressesof the American Philosophical Association (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware, 1975). p. 5.

7. Sen, Amartya. 2005. “Human Rights and Capabilities.” Journal of Human Development. 6(2):


8. Held, V. (1993). Feminist morality: Transforming culture, society, and politics. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

9. Hobbes, T. (1985). Leviathan (C. B. Macpherson, Ed.). London, UK: Penguin Books.

10. Less off, M. (1986). Social contract. New York: Macmillan.

11. Locke, J. (2003). Two treatises of government and a letter concerning toleration. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

12. Buchanan, James M. The limits of liberty: Between anarchy and Leviathan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

<href=”#_ftnref1″ name=”_ftn1″ title=””>[1]1Hobbes (2005) Sovereignty and Security’ In Cottingham, J (ed.), Western Philosophy: an anthology. Pt. IX,

Section 3, PP481

<href=”#_ftnref2″ name=”_ftn2″ title=””>[2]Hume (2000) A Treatise of Human Nature’ In Baillie J, Hume on Morality, Chapter 6, PP 184

<href=”#_ftnref3″ name=”_ftn3″ title=””>[3]Rousseau, J-J (2004) The Social Contract. London, Penguin Great Ideas. Chapter 8, PP 21

<href=”#_ftnref4″ name=”_ftn4″ title=””>[4] Held, Virginia. 1993. Feminist Morality: Transforming Culture, Society, and Politics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

<href=”#_ftnref5″ name=”_ftn5″ title=””>[5] Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press.

<href=”#_ftnref6″ name=”_ftn6″ title=””>[6]Buchanan, 1975; Buchanan and Tullock, 1962; Mueller, 1991; Tullock, 1971

<href=”#_ftnref7″ name=”_ftn7″ title=””>[7]Carruthers and Vining, 1982; Hirschman, 1970; Rosen, 1974

<href=”#_ftnref8″ name=”_ftn8″ title=””>[8]”Human rights, political instability and investment in South Africa: a note.”Journal of Development Economics. 67(1): 173-180.

<href=”#_ftnref9″ name=”_ftn9″ title=””>[9]”Is good governance rewarded? A cross-national analysis of debtforgiveness.” World Development. 30(6): 913-930

<href=”#_ftnref10″ name=”_ftn10″ title=””>[10]Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: Sen and social justice.”Feminist Economics. 9(2-3): 33-59

<href=”#_ftnref11″ name=”_ftn11″ title=””>[11]The Economics of Property Rights and Human Rights.” AmericanJournal of Economics and Sociology. 41(2): 169-81

<href=”#_ftnref12″ name=”_ftn12″ title=””>[12]Streeten, Paul. 1980. “Basic needs and human rights.” World Development. 8(2): 107-111

<href=”#_ftnref13″ name=”_ftn13″ title=””>[13]Rawls, John. 1993. “The Law of Peoples.” Critical Inquiry 20(1): 36-68.

<href=”#_ftnref14″ name=”_ftn14″ title=””>[14]”Poverty and Human Rights: Building on the CapabilityApproach.” Journal of Human Development. 6(2): 205-219