Is the Age of Human Rights Over?

Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights, ed. Sophia A. McClennen and Alexandra Schultheis Moore (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 450-458

9 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015 Last revised: 17 Oct 2015

Makau W. Mutua

SUNY Buffalo Law School

Date Written: October 1, 2015

Abstract

70 years after the UDHR -- and the launch of the human rights movement -- there are signs that the Age of Human Rights is over. This piece interrogates the deficits and normative gaps of the human rights text, and concludes that the golden age of human rights is over. Human rights no longer have the power to provoke deep-seated moral and legal outrage. The consequence is that untold human catastrophes barely register global action, let alone condemnation. While human rights have been a phenomenal success -- perhaps more than any other moral language of our time -- they have lost the ability to coalesce action. Unfortunately, no new discourses have emerged to take the place of human rights. What is needed is a new moral language to fill the vacuum left by human rights.

Keywords: morality, human rights age, cultural biases, normative deficits, intellectual fatigue, post-mortem, moral vacuum, UDHR, distopia, torture, Global South

Suggested Citation

Mutua, Makau W., Is the Age of Human Rights Over? (October 1, 2015). Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights, ed. Sophia A. McClennen and Alexandra Schultheis Moore (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 450-458. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2668287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2668287

Makau Mutua (Contact Author)

SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )

626 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716 645-2311 (Phone)

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