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Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry Michael Ignatieff Edited and with an introduction by Amy Gutmann With commentary by K. Anthony Appiah, David A. MICHAEL IGNATIEFF is a London-based commentator with the BBC and CBC. He was spread of human rights represents moral progress, in other words, are. In Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Michael Ignatieff sees both progress and retrenchment. Since the Universal Declaration of Human.

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Michael Ignatieff draws on his extensive experience as a writer and commentator on world affairs to present a penetrating account of the successes, failures, and prospects of the human rights revolution.

Since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inthis revolution has brought ax world moral progress and broken the nation-state’s monopoly on the conduct of international affairs.

But it has also faced challenges. Ignatieff argues that human rights activists have rightly drawn criticism from Asia, the Islamic world, and within the West itself for being overambitious and unwilling to accept limits.

It is now time, he writes, for activists to embrace a more modest agenda and to reestablish the balance between the rights of states and the rights of citizens. Ignatieff begins by examining the politics of human rights, assessing when it is appropriate to use the fact of human rights abuse to justify intervention in other countries.

He then explores the ideas that underpin human rights, warning that human rights must not become an idolatry. In the spirit of Isaiah Berlin, he argues that human rights can command universal assent only if they are designed to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals to lead the lives they wish. By embracing this approach and recognizing that state sovereignty is the best guarantee against chaos, Ignatieff concludes, Western nations will have a better chance of extending the real progress of the past fifty years.

Throughout, Ignatieff balances idealism with a sure sense of practical reality earned from his years of travel in zones of war and political turmoil around the globe.

Based on the Tanner Lectures that Ignatieff delivered at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values inthe book includes two chapters by Ignatieff, an introduction by Amy Gutmann, comments by four leading scholars–K.

Anthony Appiah, David A. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher–and a response by Ignatieff. Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry may raise some hackles for its controversial approach to a sacrosanct subject, but Michael Huma arguments are carefully wrought and compassionate. Ignatieff is director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and his work is part history of the evolution of human rights in international politics and part caution that it not become a new religion.

He writes, “We need to stop thinking of human rights as trumps and begin thinking of them as a language that creates the basis for deliberation.


In the second, “Human Rights as Idolatry,” he identifies three main challenges to the universality of human rights: Islam, East Asia, and, most politids, the West itself. According to Ignatieff, the West is forsaking its political heritage of individualism and thereby eroding the foundations upon which a truly universal system rithts human rights may be built.

In addition to the author’s intriguing essays, there is an introduction by Amy Gutmann, as well as comments from K. The critical reactions to Ignatieff, together with a short response of his own, have the makings of an intelligent and accessible debate.

The strength in this sensible, dense collection of essays about the burgeoning human rights movement lies not in the answers it gives but in the questions it raises. Based on lectures Ignatieff delivered at Princeton inthe book opens with two long essays by the historian, journalist and novelist who directs the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, followed by comments from four leading scholars, including K.

Anthony Appiah, with a final response from Ignatieff Virtual War: A philosophical liberal and a strong believer in the power of constitutions, Ignatieff boldly confronts difficult issues. He tries, with some success, to balance the often conflicting needs for human rights and for the sovereignty of nation-states: Only when these trends are tempered, he contends, will human rights make serious inroads throughout the world, which he believes is more ready for these rights than is generally thought.

The respondents cordially critique Ignatieff’s practical arguments rigjts watered down and morally relativist. Those looking for specific policy proposals for addressing these difficult issues may be unsatisfied.

But Ignatieff illuminates complexities likely to make headlines as the call for intervention regarding worldwide human rights continues to grow. This book will undoubtedly provoke controversy within the human rights community.

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A World in Disarray: A History of Humanitarianism. Copyright Cahners Business Information, Inc. Don’t have a Kindle? Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 5 reviews.

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Please try again later. An interesting approach to Human rights and public policiales to enforce them. Ignatieff is a Canadian born foreign policy commentator who has spent the majority idolxtry his professional life in the United States and the United Kingdom. Ignatieff’s two opening essays are followed by observations from other commentators; which in-turn are followed by closing remarks from the author.


This type annd discussion format is normally quite beneficial in helping readers to gain an appreciation of a given subject from a different perspectives. Unfortunately, rihts this work the additional commentators are to close to the author’s ideological view to be of any real value. Dianne Orentlicher’s observations were ok, however, the others were weak – characterized by too much flattery and self-aggrandizement.

The opening essays introduce a range of concerns within the contemporary human rights movement. I have heard the author speak on foreign policy issues and find him to be a generally capable foreign policy commentator.

Overall, there is not much of value in this book. If handled from a broader perspective idolaatry issues could be a worthwhile read. In its current form, however, I do not recommend it. Ignatieff presents a broad analysis of human rights, and human rights theory.

His first of two essays focuses primarily on the politics and application of human rights, while his second essay engages more deeply into human rights theory. His arguments are generally logical and well thought I have aand to find a writer whose ideas I agreed with in their entirety. He is a good writer idolagry that he presents his arguments in jgnatieff manner that is clear, intelligent, and ignatifef. Ignatieff offers a measured, limited, and explicitly political, i. I can’t say I’m entirely convinced, mind you.

See all 5 reviews. Customers who bought this item also bought. How Historical Assessments Change over Time. International Human Rights Law: Returning to Universal Principles, Second Edition. Bait and Switch Global Horizons. There’s a problem loading this menu right now.

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Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry by Michael Ignatieff

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