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We live in a period of rising scepticism concerning human rights, their foundations, purposes and efficacy. Yet, the language and law of human rights remains one of the truly global languages of political, moral and legal claim-making. This course will unpack and examine the tensions and contradictions of contemporary human rights law and politics. It will first consider the historical origins of contemporary human rights frameworks, with special attention to the polemical debates about the origins of human rights. It will then examine various theories of human rights and their foundations, and as the question: what is global justice and what do human rights have to do with it? Finally, the course will inquire into the utility and uses of rights to challenge harms widely perceived as instances of global injustice: inequality and uneven development, labour exploitation and military occupation. In the end, we will ask, what can we expect from human rights law today?
Principal topics will include:
- The history of human rights law and practice
- Theories of human rights and global justice
- Human rights and inequality
- Human rights and labour exploitation
- Human rights and military occupation
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Be able to comprehend, synthesize and critically analyse the state of the art literature on the history and theory of human rights.
- Be able to understand and critically reflect upon concepts and theories of global justice
- Be able to reflect critically on current debates concerning the utility of human rights in addressing problems of global justice and injustice.
- Be able to understand contemporary debates about the effectiveness of human rights law in addressing problems of global justice and develop their own analysis of such debates.
- Understand and be able to engage in a sophisticated manner the human rights legal frameworks used to address problems of global justice, and to critically evaluate such legal arguments.
Last updated: 30 January 2024