Human Rights and the Uses of History

Samuel Moyn. Verso (Random, dist.), $24.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-78168-263-0
In examining the development of the concept of human rights, Columbia University historian Moyn (The Last Utopia) takes a penetrating, provocative look at philosophical and political phrases that pepper current political discourse, such as "human dignity" and "humanitarian intervention." Largely a gathering of book reviews for The Nation, Moyn argues for the relatively recent invention of "human rights" as terminology, locates its use in the "common parlance" in the 1970s "with the emergence of dissident movements in Eastern Europe," links it to "liberal internationalism," and suggests that "history shows how frequently [humanitarianism and rights] have been offered as justifications for invasion, expansion and annexation." He scrutinizes the work of contemporary scholars including Lynn Hunt, Jeremy Waldron, Gary Bass, Jenny Martinez, Katherine Sikkink, Samantha Power, Elaine Scarry, and G. John Ikenberry. For unfamiliar readers, voices from the past (Melville, Roosevelt) and present (Bush, Obama) contribute to the accessibility of this dense book. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 06/17/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 85 pages - 978-1-78168-264-7
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