SoSe 17: International human rights - contemporary theoretical controversies
Human rights constitute a core normative foundation of contemporary international politics and transnational societal organization. Their practical function in the identification of moral wrongs and ... read more
Human rights constitute a core normative foundation of contemporary international politics and transnational societal organization. Their practical function in the identification of moral wrongs and abusive practices by state and non-state actors alike appears to be uncontested in the everyday work of international and non-governmental organizations around the world. However, for considerable time, the notion of human rights as it emerged in international politics after 1945 has become challenged from different angles. On the one hand, there is an ongoing intellectual debate over their historical roots as well as their philosophical justification. On the other, changing relationships between the global North and South and ongoing contestation over core international human rights principles and standards have led to a reconsideration of the supposed universality of international human rights norms. What is more, the growing authority of private actors and organizations in international politics is identified as a continuous challenge to established human rights mechanisms – their role as both promoters, contesters and abusers of human rights receives growing recognition in academic literature on human rights too. This seminar engages with these contemporary controversies. It will focus on recent seminal works on the origins, validity and future of human rights in international politics. Students must be prepared to engage with rather difficult literature from the areas of (legal and moral) philosophy, international legal theory, international relations and neighboring disciplines. In the first part of the seminar, we will read and discuss groundbreaking contributions to contemporary thinking on human rights. In the second part, we will apply these theoretical arguments to a number of practical human rights issues in international politics.