The Universalism and Relativism of Culture

Research Topic and Thesis Statement

The variety of cultures gives a great number of options for interpretation of values and beliefs possessed by people that live in accordance with certain rules and traditions. In this respect, every culture is unique by its nature with its laws and rules that are obeyed by the people. However, the international organisations claim about the importance of human rights and the violation of human rights established by the European Convention and other international governmental and non-governmental organisations in the framework of the developing globalisation.

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Every country has a unique history and traditions are a part of it while other states claim to have more appropriate laws and rules that would better regulate the conflicts occurring in the countries under consideration. As a rule, Islamic region and Eastern countries are labelled as anti-human in terms of their laws and punishment for people that commit crimes. However, the Western countries and those who adapted their laws on their territory insist on universalisation of human rights as applied to any member of the global community regardless of the country in which he/she is happening to be.

The issue of main concern for this research proposal is the analysis of the objective consideration of the universalism and relativism of culture and human rights identification and application. Moreover, the problem of anti-human actions and crimes committed during military campaigns should be also assessed to find out whether the Western countries promote the concept of universal human rights so that all countries of the world could benefit from their application or they simply want to control other countries with the help of reminding of the universal human rights everyone should obey. The research question is the following: Should we have one set of universal human rights values or should different cultures have different human rights values in accordance with their history and culture?

Structural Outline

Analysis the issue from different points of view and account of different perspectives while discussing the problems and inferring from the discussion are to be performed in an objective way in order to include the opinion of all sides of the controversies. As such, news about current political situation in the world and the military conflicts that currently take place in different countries should be assessed; to learn more about different perspectives on the issue. As such, critical analysis of all sources is required to make the dissertation more interesting and appealing to the audience.

Analysis of literary sources is necessary to focus on the following issues: the concept of human rights1, its role in different countries and its historical analysis with regard to the history of development,2 adaption and rejection of different rights and freedoms, assessment of different cultures and evaluation of the principles of European Convention on human rights.3

In addition, it is necessary to compare and contrast the views of authors who advocate and oppose the universalism and relativism while considering the concept of human rights as applied to one country or the entire global community. Assessment of the news on the political situation is necessary to identify the most pro-universalism countries that advocate the importance of human rights and, at the same time, violate the rights of people to have an independent country as opposed to countries with traditions that have their own laws and do not try to impose those on the population of the world.

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The main research question have already been defined and it looks as following: Should we have one set of universal human rights values or should different cultures have different human rights values in accordance with their history and culture? Analysis of this issue requires preliminary discussion of the related topics and identification of relationship between cultural issues and political concerns of the world’s superpowers. In this respect, every nation should have unique traditions as it always was and defend the rights for specific laws and rules that are in force in this or that country instead of adapting the human rights conventions so that the European and other Western governments could control and regulate the actions of other government by identifying their gaps and restrictions in implementation of universal human rights.

The research question can be logically divided into parts aimed at consideration of the issues in the following sequence: the first part should be aimed at analysis of the culture as a concept and its differences in different countries and parts of the world. The second part should be devoted to the analysis of the studies authors of which advocate the universalism456 as applied to human rights regardless of peculiarities of the cultural environment typical of the country.

The third part should contain assessment of the cultural relativism theories and authors who oppose universalism and support human rights with regard to specific features of every culture. In addition, it is possible to include here the claims and reports about the violation of human rights in Islamic countries and Eastern countries and the crime rates in western countries. So, the fourth part can include the comparison of the political situation in the world and cases when law and human rights’ violation are justified by the ‘higher purposes’.

Data collection on the topic concerns the review of literary sources and videos available on the topic of universalism and cultural relativism and other related issues that may be helpful in analysis of the problem of human rights and application of universal human rights regardless of the country and its history in terms of traditions and culture. In this respect, the main sources of information for analysis is the secondary research on the printed materials, online books and journals and video files available on the internet that assess the situation as well as interviews of authors and politicians who claim about the importance of human rights.

Data analysis of the collected sources should be conducted in a sequential manner in order not to confuse different points of view with regard to the topic under discussion. Besides, it is preferable to take the objective approach to the evaluation of relevance of materials to the discussion and their value in the process of solving the issue. However, the hypothesis may be either supported or refused after analysis of the situation in the international arena. So, strong evidence is the main component that may change the perception of the situation by the readers of the project and influence their vision of the situation with human rights with regard to cultural relativism.78

The limitations on the project concern the variety of literary sources available on the topic. Besides, some books contain articles that either support or oppose the issue of cultural relativism as applied to the concept of human rights. In this respect, it is important that all views are taken into account because consideration of one side of the issue and skipping another side would lead to invalid results that cannot be considered as documentary evidence of the benefits of cultural relativism in application of human rights. As such, objective point of view is the issue of primary concern for the research proposal and the dissertation on this project.

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As the theme of cultural diversity and unique features of every culture is enormous, it is important to identify the scope of the research conducted on the basis of the present research proposal. Analysis of the universalism as applied to the concept of human rights and their implementation by the global community members and cultural relativism with regard to the universal human rights and impossibility of application of a single set of human rights to all countries are the main areas of the research. The supportive evidence can be found in the media with the help of assessing the interviews and position of the Western countries towards the violation of human rights by the military alliances of the Western world in the countries to which they invade in order to ‘regulate the conflict’.

The topic of cultural relativism applied to implementation of universal human rights9 should be the main issue for consideration in the international organisations that try to impose universal human rights and laws on the countries with unique culture that cannot operate under the artificial set of rights that would not work to maintain peaceful situation. The instability in the world in terms of the political, economical and cultural situation makes the consideration of this topic even more significant due to the borders blurring between cultures and globalisation in all spheres of human activity.

As such, the international organisations should take into account the unique features of every culture with regard to all aspects including human rights, laws, political situation, language, education and other items that contribute to the entire concept of culture. Review of the conventions and charters on human rights would enable each country to introduce the laws applicable to the cultural environment of the country instead of accepting universal human rights and everything that usually comes in the same package with human rights such as attempts of other countries to regulate the situation in this one.

Annotated Bibliography

Afshari, Reza. Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Cultural exceptionalism is advocated by the author of this source due to the number of differences in the Western and Islamic societies and the importance for obeying the laws either due to consciousness or because of the close relation of the laws and religion.

Brems, Eva. Human Rights: Universality and Diversity. Cambridge, MA: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2001.

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The author considers rights claims in different countries and analyses the possibility for adequate implication of the universal human rights so that all countries were protected by a universal convention/document that would stipulate rights and freedoms of people.

Claude, Richard Pierre, and Burns H. Weston. Human rights in the World Community: Issues and Action. (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

The book contains analysis of community policies that are an integral part of the universal human rights and their implementation. International human rights are also advocated in this source.

Corradetti, Claudio. Relativism and Human Rights: A Theory of Pluralistic Universalism. Berlin: Springer, 2009.

The author supports the idea of cultural relativism and the diversity in cultural values and beliefs of the global community putting an emphasis on the legal issues over the concept of human rights and their universalism.

Dembour, Marie-Bénédicte. Who Believes in Human Rights?: Reflections on the European Convention. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

The author criticises the short-sightedness of universalism while reviewing the problem of human rights and possibility of application of the European Convention to the global community regardless of the cultural sensitivities.

Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. (2nd ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

The author dwells on the concept of human rights and cultural implications of those regarding the country and its traditions. Analysis of universal and culturally-applied rights and freedoms enables the readers to understand importance of cultural sensitivities.

Hayden, Patrick. The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009.

Ethical and moral decisions and different rights of people such as gender, children’s, political and other rights are enlarged on by the author with regard to historical and cultural perspectives.

Lauren, Paul Gordon. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Evolution of the concept of human rights is reflected in this source making the readers aware of the different ways the human rights passed before becoming the internationally accepted or rejected due to the cultural sensitivities and biases.

Logan, William, and Máiréad Nic Craith. Cultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights: Intersections in Theory and Practice, ed. Michele Langfield, William Logan, and Máiréad Nic Craith. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2010.

The peculiar features of cultural issues and attempts to unify all these details are discussed in this book with regard to the United Nations 1945 Charter that stipulates the human rights for the international community though advocates the significance of protecting cultural traditions.

Pollis, Adamantia, and Peter Schwab. Human Rights: New Perspectives, New Realities. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.

Rights of people and the necessity for providing them with wider freedoms is assessed by the authors of this source who take into account such concepts as minority rights, impact of globalisation, issues concerning environment and Islam and others.

Reidy, David A., and Mortimer N. S. Sellers. Universal Human Rights: Moral Order in a Divided World. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Evaluation of moral rights and values and human rights and values as they appear in the context of the contemporary world are discussed in this book. The authors compiled a variety of opinions on the issue of morality of unification and universalism and relativism of human rights.

Twining, William. Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

The book contains different thoughts by authors from the Eastern cultures who know the cultural diversity concepts and recognise the universalism as well as relativism and focus on the objective approach to consideration of this issue.

Bibliography

Afshari, Reza. Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Brems, Eva. Human Rights: Universality and Diversity. Cambridge, MA: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2001.

Claude, Richard Pierre, and Burns H. Weston. Human rights in the World Community: Issues and Action. (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Corradetti, Claudio. Relativism and Human Rights: A Theory of Pluralistic Universalism. Berlin: Springer, 2009.

Dembour, Marie-Bénédicte. Who Believes in Human Rights?: Reflections on the European Convention. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. (2nd ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Hayden, Patrick. The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009.

Lauren, Paul Gordon. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Logan, William, and Máiréad Nic Craith. Cultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights: Intersections in Theory and Practice, ed. Michele Langfield, William Logan, and Máiréad Nic Craith. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2010.

Pollis, Adamantia, and Peter Schwab. Human Rights: New Perspectives, New Realities. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.

Reidy, David A., and Mortimer N. S. Sellers. Universal Human Rights: Moral Order in a Divided World. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Twining, William. Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Footnotes

  1. Jack Donnelly Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (2nd ed.) (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY 2003) at 7.
  2. Richard Pierre Claude and Burns H. Weston. Human Rights in the World Community: Issues and Action (3rd ed.) (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2006) at 23.
  3. .
  4. Patrick Hayden The Ashgate Research Companion to Ethics and International Relations (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., Farnham, 2009) at 201.
  5. David A Reidy and Mortimer NS Sellers Universal Human Rights: Moral Order in a Divided World (Rowman & Littlefield, Oxford, 2005) at 59.
  6. Claude and Weston ibid., at 47.
  7. Reza Afshari Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2001) at 1.
  8. William Twining Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi (Cambridge University Press, Cape Town, 2009) at 81.
  9. Eva Brems Human Rights: Universality and Diversity (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Cambridge, MA, 2001) at 423.

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