Where Hope meets Expectation on the Road between Human Rights Idealism and Pragmatism
HUMAN RIGHTS: OLD PROBLEMS AND NEW POSSIBILITIES, Kinley, Sadurski, Walton, eds., Edward Elgar: United Kingdom, 2013
19 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2011 Last revised: 14 Feb 2013
Date Written: December 11, 2011
As a concept, human rights have application and impact at both the levels of an aspirational ideal and pragmatic implementation. The differences between the two perspectives are evident in rhetoric as well as legal and policy pronouncements, often rubbing along relatively uncontroversially in Western democracies. The prevailing circumstance of human rights today is in fact largely the result of a continuous process of compromise. Pendulum swings between ‘ought’ and ‘is’, with tendencies veering towards one or other end apparent across human rights as a whole, and within individual rights at different times and conditions. In this essay I discuss briefly five examples of human rights circumstance (moral; legal; political; economic and cultural) where the idealistic/pragmatist divide is especially sharp with the aims of illustrating the lines of transmission between human rights idealism and pragmatism, explaining the significance of the compromises reached in these examples, and highlighting the critical points of stress or opportunity exhibited in each.
Keywords: human rights, philosophy, international law, international relations
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation