Demands for "human rights" and resistance to their violation are rarely out of the news. Yet their definition is far from a settled matter, their legal status is quite varied, their uses and defence widely inconsistent between jurisdictions, and respect for them is blatantly limited. If it is held that all humans are abstractly equal in the possession of these rights, there is little agreement on anything else about them. The "human rights" of the United Nations' Charter and Universal Declaration contain a host of inconsis­tencies and a mixture of truths and untruths that contradict the assumptions of universality and timelessness.

Gary Teeple makes the case that "human rights" are peculiar to an historically given mode of production; they comprise the public declaration of the principles of the prevailing property relations. In that they are proclaimed absolute and universal is no different than similar declarations and beliefs about the nature of principles arising in different social formations. Although the tenets underlying "human rights" are distinct from pre-capitalist rights in several ways, there is one very significant distinguishing characteristic: implicit within them are goals that are qualitatively different from any relations yet realized in existing social formations.


The Riddle
The Argument

Chapter I: The Diverse Origins

Civil Rights
Political Rights
Social Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Chapter II: The Absolutes

The Human in Human Rights
The Assertion of Equality
Rights as Inherent
Rights as Indivisible and Inalienable
The Assertion of Universality
The Relativity of Human Rights

Chapter III: The Contradictions

In Principle

The Contradiction in Private Property
The Corporation and the Individual
Civil Rights and Social Rights
Political Rights and Corporate Civil Rights
Human Rights and Institutionalized Religion

In Practice

The Unequal Rights of Men and Women
The Rights of Children
The Right of Self-Determination of Peoples

Chapter IV: Rights Outside Capitalist Relations

"Socialist" Countries
Human Rights and the Third World
An African Concept of Human Rights
Islamization and Human Rights
Human Rights and the Fourth World

Chapter V: The Curious Unanimity

Contradictory Demands
Support from the Right
Support from the Reformist Left
The Meeting Ground of Left and Right: NGOs On the National Level
NGOs on the Global Level
Human Rights Watch
HRW on Cuba
The Problem of Amnesty International
The Meaning of Social Rights

Chapter VI: The Future of Human Rights

Globalization and Human Rights
Non-Corporate Rights at the Global Level?
Recent Global Mechanisms for Enforcement
Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
UN Ad Hoc Tribunals
Compromised Commissions and Tribunals
The International Criminal Court

Chapter VII: Principles for the Future?

Respect for Human Rights
The "Corporatization" of the United Nations: "The Global Compact"
The Meanings Implicit in Human Rights
The Irrepressible Spread of Resistance

Chapter VIII: September 11 and the New Behemoth

Peace as a Problem
The Need to Defend Global Class Relations
The Political Economy of Military Spending
The Search for a Threat
A Strategy Long in the Planning
Global Ascendancy and "Full Spectrum Dominance"
The Militarization of Space
The Expansion of NATO
New Technology for Civilian Repression
Global Surveillance: Echelon
A New Role for Nuclear Weapons
"Benevolent Global Hegemony"
The Question of Pretexts
The Meaning of September 11: Its Aftermath
Class War at Home
Global Assertion of Dominance
The Transformation of International Relations and Human Rights
The Coming End of Liberal Democracy

Appendix: Universal Declaration of Human Rights





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