Sociologists confront human rights: The problem of universalism

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    15 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper examines sociologists’ current interest in the topics of human rights and globalisation. Some descnbe a world where everyone has rights (or at least a modicum of rights), because we are all human, and we all interact and communicate with one another in a global environment which will (it is argued), result in greater toleration and recognition of differences. In contrast, this paper emphasises the political instability of rights in a world characterised by vast economic inequalities which does not fit neatly into some of the visions of international or global community being proposed. Rather than the inevitability of rights discourse, I argue that it is the force of law that demands human problems be cast in the language of rights and rights language is legal language. Nonetheless, there has been relatively little attention paid by sociologists to the institutions, especially courts, for example, that will recognise and enforce those rights designated as human rights. The paper closes with some suggestions for further sociological endeavour in this regard.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)198-212
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Sociology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1999


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