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Human rights and the search for community / Rhoda E. Howard

Main Author Howard, Rhoda E. Country Reino Unido. Publication Oxford : Westview Press, cop. 1995 Description X, 255 p. ; 23 cm ISBN 0-8133-2579-X CDU 342.7(100)
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Monografia Biblioteca de Ciências da Educação
BCE 342.7(100) - H Available 143956
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Some critics contend that the concept of universal human rights reflects the West's anticommunitarian, self-centered individualism, which disproportionately focuses on individual autonomy. In this book Rhoda Howard-Hassmann refutes this claim, arguing instead that communities can exist in modern Western societies if they protect the whole spectrum of individual human rights, not only civil and political but also economic rights.Howard-Hassmann supports the case for the universality of human rights by showing community to be inherent in and essential to the realization of universal human rights. She makes an original contribution to the study of universal human rights through her review of those types of communitarian thought that underlie cultural relativist attacks on human rights. Howard-Hassmann defends individual rights against conservative and leftist communitarian challenges emanating from both the Western world and the Third World. Exploring conservative viewpoints, sheexamines traditionalists of the Third World--focusing on African and Muslim traditionalist schools, as well as reactionary conservatives of the Western world. Howard-Hassmann then looks at challenges from the left, including collectivists, who see universal human rights as the products of cultural imperialism or capitalist exploitation, and status radicals, such as feminists or black activists, who are critics of liberalism.Howard-Hassmann also criticizes what she dubs "radical capitalism" or "social minimalism," the idea that there is a very narrow range of true human rights, including the right to property, and that citizens are responsible for no one but themselves. A community, in Howard-Hassmann's view, is a group of people who all feel a sense of obligation to all others in the group. For a community to work in the modern world, everyone must be treated equally, enjoy societal respect, and be able to act autonomously in her or his everyday decisionmaking.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  • 1 (p. 1)
  • Notes (p. 21)
  • 2 Liberal Society (p. 23)
  • Notes (p. 48)
  • 3 Cultural Absolutism And Nostalgia for Community (p. 51)
  • Notes (p. 74)
  • 4 (p. 79)
  • Notes (p. 104)
  • 5 The Modern Community (p. 109)
  • Notes (p. 132)
  • 6 Honor and Shame (p. 135)
  • 7 Social Exclusion (p. 165)
  • Notes (p. 189)
  • 8 Individualism And Social Obligation (p. 195)
  • Notes (p. 222)
  • Bibliography (p. 227)
  • About the Book and Author (p. 247)
  • Index (p. 249)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


In this book, a Canadian sociologist defends universal and human rights as they might be practiced in North America. Howard argues for "social democracy," an expansion of the Canadian model in which protection of individual civil and political rights is joined by a guaranteed economic minimum for persons. The result would be a reduction in the class bias in North America, where only the middle and upper classes have the time and money to use their civil and political rights to advance their interests. Howard seeks true equal opportunity and individual liberation, and criticizes the US version of rights as lacking in emotive community. She takes issue with Alison Dundes Renteln ("A Conceptual Analysis of International Human Rights: Universalism Versus Relativism," PhD dissertation, Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1988) and others who endorse strong versions of cultural relativism and the superiority of group values. Howard regards most African, Islamic, and Asian versions of communalism as overly romanticized masks for continued discrimination on grounds of gender, age, wealth, etc. Her initial grouping of abstract views confuses as much as it illuminates, and her argument is periodically redundant, but on the whole she presents a spirited analysis of the liberating potential of Western liberal thought as applied to fundamental personal rights. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann is professor of sociology at McMaster University in Canada and director of the university's Theme School on International Justice and Human Rights. Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann is professor of sociology at McMaster University in Canada and director of the university's Theme School on International Justice and Human Rights.

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