Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 2nd Edition
April 2011, Polity
By tracing the history of the concept, the book shows that there is a fundamental tension between the philosophy of human rights and the way in which it is understood in the social sciences. This analysis throws light on some of the most controversial issues in the field: Is the idea of the universality of human rights consistent with respect for cultural difference? Are there collective human rights? Should feminists embrace, revise or reject the idea of human rights? Does the idea of human rights distract our attention from the structural causes of oppression and exploitation? What are the underlying causes of human rights violations; and why do some countries have much worse human rights records than others?
The book will appeal to students in the social sciences, as well as students of human rights law who want an introduction to the non-legal aspects of their subject. It will also be read by scholars interested in ethics and the social sciences, as well as the general reader. This is a substantially revised edition that takes account of recent events such as the ‘war on terror’ and the global economic crisis of 2008.
1. Introduction: Thinking about Human Rights.
2. Origins: the Rise and Fall of Natural Rights.
3. After 1945: the New Age of Rights.
4. Theories of Human Rights.
5. Putting Law in its Place: the Role of the Social Sciences.
6. Universality, Diversity and Difference: Culture and Human Rights.
7. Idealism, Realism and Repression: the Politics of Human Rights.
8. Globalization, Development and Poverty: Economics and Human Rights.
9. Conclusion: Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century.
- Eagerly awaited second edition of this highly respected introduction to the theory and practice of human rights.
- Innovative and challenging, this book invites students to think conceptually about one of the most important and influential political concepts of our time.
- Emphasizes how the experiences of the victims of human rights violations are related to legal, philosophical and social-scientific approaches to human rights.
- Asks key questions, such as: Does the idea of human rights distract our attention from the structural causes of oppression and exploitation? What are the underlying causes of human rights violations? Why do some countries have much worse human rights records than others?
- This substantially revised edition takes account of crucial recent events such as the ‘war on terror’ and the global economic crisis of 2008.
Richard A. Wilson, University of Connecticut
"Michael Freeman's second edition of Human Rights is,
like the first, very well written. In addition, it is very well
grounded in history and normative political theory. Moreover, it
accurately summarizes much literature in the social sciences
dealing with both empirical theory and factual evidence."
Professor D. Forsythe, University of Nebraska
"When Polity published Human Rights in 2002, it filled a
void. Finally, there was a book that introduced the concept with
all its complexities but in a clear style. Freeman's systematic
approach and passionate prose guided readers through a labyrinth of
history, disciplines, and issues and allowed them to develop an
understanding of the history of human rights, along with a range of
debates and conflicts surrounding them. The layered analysis made
the book equally attractive to the experts. Now, nearly a decade
later, we have more books on human rights, but none to replace
Freeman's. The second edition, still maintaining the original
structure and broad scope, points to the elements of progress
amidst ever increasing human rights violations, albeit in a rapidly
Zehra F. Kabaskal Arat, Purchase College