The Sociology of Human Rights
January 2015, Polity
Long the arena of philosophers, legal scholars, and political scientists, the interdisciplinary study of human rights has recently seen an influx of sociologists. Why is this so, and how do sociologists contribute to our understanding of human rights in the contemporary world?
In this landmark new text, Mark Frezzo explores the sociological perspective on human rights, which he shows to be uniquely placed to illuminate the economic, political, social, and cultural conditions under which human rights norms and laws are devised, interpreted, implemented, and enforced. Sociologists treat human rights not as immutable attributes but as highly contested claims that vary across historical time and geographic space, and investigate how human rights can serve either to empower or to constrain social actors, from large societies to small communities and identity groups. Frezzo guides readers through the scholarly, pedagogical, and practical applications of a sociological view of major debates such as foundationalism vs. social constructionism, universalism vs. particularism, globalism vs. localism, and collective vs. individual rights.
This cutting-edge text will appeal to students of sociology, political science, law, development, and social movements, and all interested in the nature, scope, and applicability of human rights in the twenty-first century.
Background to the Book
Introduction: Thinking Sociologically about Human Rights
Chapter 1: Defining the Sociology of Human Rights
Chapter 2: Classifying Human Rights
Chapter 3: Civil and Political Rights
Chapter 4: Economic and Social Rights
Chapter 5: Rights to Culture, the Environment, and Sustainable Development
Chapter 6: Rights Bundles
Conclusion: An Agenda for the Sociology of Human Rights
Suggestions for Further Reading
Internet Resources for Consultation
Mark Frezzo invites sociologists to join others (political
scientists, economists, anthropologists) to engage human rights
both empirically and theoretically. We should have been there all
along as human rights are embedded in societies, communities, and
social relations. His invitation is especially attractive, because
he challenges us to take on such cutting-edge issues as global
inequalities, environmental sustainability, and the social
implications of climate change.
Judith Blau, University of North Carolina
Through careful theoretical and pedagogic reflections, Mark
Frezzo introduces us to the concepts of rights conditions, rights
claims, rights effects, and rights bundles as a way to think
sociologically about rights in the era of globalization. And, by
expanding the epistemic community of human rights, he encourages us
all to participate in defining and solving the human rights puzzles
of our time.
Manisha Desai, University of Connecticut
Mark Frezzo adds a sociological voice to the human rights
conversation, which has so far been dominated by the disciplines of
law and international relations. If readers wish to study rights
claims of social and global movements, sociological tools remain
indispensable to assess their progress. The Sociology of Human
Rights defends a nuanced form of universalism in an age of
skepticism and upholds people’s capacity for change.
Frezzo’s refreshing engagement is a significant contribution
to the field of human rights.
Micheline Ishay, University of Denver