Books by Brights

Human Rights as Social Construction

Author: Benjamin Gregg
Published by: Cambridge University Press (2012)
[Paperback] 9781107612945
[Hardcover] 9781107015937
[ebook] 9781139211758
To Purchase: Amazon USA


Most conceptions of human rights rely on metaphysical or theological assumptions that construe them as possible only as something imposed from outside existing communities. Most people, in other words, presume that human rights come from nature, God, or the United Nations. This book argues that reliance on such putative sources actually undermines human rights. Benjamin Gregg envisions an alternative; he sees human rights as locally developed, freely embraced, and indigenously valid. Human rights, he posits, can be created by the average, ordinary people to whom they are addressed, and that they are valid only if embraced by those to whom they would apply. To view human rights in this manner is to increase the chances and opportunities that more people across the globe will come to embrace them.

“Gregg writes with urgency and clarity, and his book should be read by both cosmopolitans and their critics.” – Richard Vernon, Distinguished University Professor, University of Western Ontario

“With verve and conviction, Gregg shows how the ‘human rights state’ is a workable ideal.” – Russell Muirhead, Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics, Dartmouth College

“Gregg’s brilliantly reasoned, strikingly original, and profoundly challenging approach to human rights theory and practice may be the most significant contribution on this theme in the last decade. It deserves the widest possible reading and debate.” – Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus, International Law, Princeton University

“Gregg argues for a conception of human rights as a "natural morality" that draws on cultural resources and acknowledges developments in evolutionary neurobiology. Recommended.” M. Forman, University of Washington, CHOICE Magazine

About the Author:

Benjamin Gregg teaches social and political theory at The University of Texas at Austin and is the author of Thick Moralities, Thin Politics: Social Integration Across Communities of Belief as well as of Coping in Politics with Indeterminate Norms: A Theory of Enlightened Localism (both listed on Books by Brights).

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