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What are human rights? Four schools of thought

By Marie-Benedicte Dembour


A close reading of academic literature reveals that we do not all conceive of human rights in the same way. This contribution proposes that "natural scholars" conceive of human rights as given; "deliberative scholars" as agreed upon; "protest scholars" as fought for; and "discourse scholars" as talked about. The position of each of these four schools on the foundation, universality, possible realization, and legal embodiment of human rights is reviewed, as well as is the schools' faith, or lack thereof, in human rights. Quotations from academic texts illustrate how the four school model cuts across the academic disciplines with examples drawn from philosophy, politics, law, and anthropology

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Year: 2010
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