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Are Human Rights Western?A Contribution to the Dialogue of Civilizations$
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Arvin Sharma

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195679489

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195679489.001.0001

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The Rhetorical Argument

The Rhetorical Argument

(p.217) 30 The Rhetorical Argument
Are Human Rights Western?

Arvind Sharma

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the argument that human rights may be labelled Western as a purely rhetorical device; that it to say, it is a convenient way of deflecting any critical inquiry into the moral or legal legitimacy of certain actions undertaken by individuals and groups, but especially by governments. It concludes that in some ways the doctrine of human rights could be credibly labelled as ‘Western’, and that its ‘Western’ orientation may in fact seriously compromise its application in some parts of the world, and the need for ‘deprovincializing Europe’ may be quite genuine. However, it is equally clear that in many ways the doctrine of human rights does resonate with values cherished all over the world, and to that extent dubbing human rights as ‘Western’ may be merely a way of avoiding having one's conduct judged by human rights norms.

Keywords:   rhetorical device, doctrine of human rights, Western idea, moral or legal legitimacy, government, deprovincializing Europe

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