Some Middle-Age Spread, a Few Mood Swings, and Growing Exhaustion: The Human Rights Movement at Middle Age
24 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2008
This paper was presented at a symposium, "The Scholar as Activist", dedicated to the work of Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU. This paper focuses on the subject of international human rights law and the engagement of scholars as activists in this area of law. At fifty-plus years, and therefore soundly middle aged, the global human rights project today provides occasion for reflection and evaluation. This paper observes that human rights have increasingly become the language of progressive politics. In many ways, this focus on human rights globally echoes the struggle for civil liberties and civil rights in the United States in earlier decades. Then, despite widespread opposition, the vision of a society underpinned by human rights and dignity seemed attainable; this emboldened generations of activists and inspired many scholars. And sometimes, inspiration and boldness merged to shape the scholar as activist. The path-breaking contributions of scholars like John Hope Franklin, C. Vann Woodward, and Kenneth Clark to the 1954 decision of Brown v. Board of Education reflect the scholar as activist in the finest light. Using the South African democratic process as a case in point, the article assesses the transformative potential of human rights law.
Keywords: human rights
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation