Sociology of Human Rights

Q1: In what way(s) do Human Rights NGOs contribute to institutional structural violence?

Human Rights NGOs activities contribute to institutional structural violence in the sense that they are used by First world countries to intervene in the affairs of Third World countries. Intervention in itself is not bad, what contributes to the violence is the fact that whenever these interventions occur, the NGOs and their puppet masters (First World) are always biased. Human Rights should be based on the concept of natural law; however, due to the fact that human right violations are rampant worldwide, these bodies have the duty to step in where such injustices occur.

The problem that is seen is with these bodies is that they tend to impose human rights parameters derived from the western countries. These Human rights imposed by these NGOs are usually individualistic in the sense that they tend to serve the NGOs and the Western countries interests. The dangers of these bodies such as the United Nations, is that they do hold the `monopoly of violence` (Bryan. Outline of a Theory of Human Rights, 202). With this, comes the ability to unilaterally decide for a country or area occupied. When this happens, sectors such as economy and politics are affected thus promoting structural violence.

Q2 Bryan Turner argues that the concept of “human” in human rights has been largely dominated by framings that we have inherited from the Western tradition of political liberalism.  He argues that such understandings render humans as being too socially “thin,” and overly individualistic. In short, they underappreciate the extent to which humans are fundamentally social.  List the main tenets of his conception of what it means to be “human” – and explain the significance of this alternative conception for the development of human rights.

            The concept of human Rights as Bryan turner argues, has rendered humans  socially `thin`, this is because human or humanity is not a concept that can be spread cross-culturally from one geographical area to another. This is further complicated by the fact that the divide between human and non-human is not a fixed quantity or parameter but rather variable. Different cultures would produce different humans bearing different tenets of human Rights. Humans are described as being socially `thin’ because the modern human rights tenets are based on United Nations Universal declarations on Human Rights. The fact that United Nation seems to be the universal body that sets the `acceptable` human rights to be used worldwide means that socially human beings can only behave or socialize with each other as spelt out in this declaration. The very fact that humanrights are attached to UnitedNation means that in essence it is biased and heavily leans on the western nation’s culture.

Like Turner, Ladicola and Shupe in ‘Violence, Inequality and HumanFreedom’assert that being human is a socially produced form rather than being shaped naturally. That this concept is fundamental to the development of human rights in the ways discussed below. In capitalist society, human rights have been thought to have stemmed out of individualistic and egoistic society.  Such tendencies of individualism and egoism have largely contributed to violence. An example of such acts of violence is the race riots in America where minorities are often agitating for equal rights (Peter, Anson, 33). This has largely contributed to Bodies like United Nations trying to come up with ways to apply rights on a level playing field across the globe. By trying to apply a common humanity across the globe means that rights become gradually accepted in most parts of the world and thus enhancing the fight on social injustices globally. Human Rights, becomes a very important supplement of the concept of citizenship in that while citizenship is defined boundaries, human rights on the other hand run across boundaries and applies to people from all races by acknowledging that as different as we may be in color or practices, we are all equal and deserve to be  treated equally.

Q3 Hans Joas argues that the genesis of human rights discourse derives not from what Max Weber characterized as a “charismatization (or Sacralization) of reason,” but rather from a sacralization of the person. In what ways does Joas’ argument complement Bryan Turner’s?

Max Weber, in his writing had put emphasis on sacralization of the person and not sacralization of reason. But even then, sacralization is one sided and does not affect all human beings equally unlike human dignity which applies to all human beings equally irrespective of colour or race or whether mentally unstable or otherwise. (Joas, 11).Turner pegs great importance on law as one of the fundamental fabrics that holds society together. He asserts that law is a fundamental aspect in upholding human rights and freedoms.  Joas on the other hand puts emphasis on human dignity as a factor that has contributed to promoting rights in the society.

Human beings are always in a state of conflict if left in the natural, the weak and minorities would be in danger of extinction. This is the reason why `foundationalist ontology ` approach is helpful in checking and curbing of human rights abuse (Bryan, A reply to Waters, 566). To protect the very principles of human dignity, nations need to come up with a universal legislation of rules and laws to promote and protect human dignity.Max Weber asserts that `peace is incompatible with human life` and this realization is what has led to the move from sacralization of reason to sacralization of the person. This is in recognition that the `person` or human dignity is more important than the law or state that often in a way or the other contributes largely to violation of the very rights they are supposed to protect.

Much as both Hans and Bryan Turner postulate different theories and approaches to human rights, what comes out with perfect clarity between these writers is the recognition of human rights as being primal compared to law, state and even citizenship as it traverses all regions and encompasses all forms of human life. More importantly is the fact that it can be applies equally to all human beings in the whole world.







Works Cited

Turner, Bryan S. “Outline of a theory of human rights.” Sociology 27.3 (1993): 489-512.

Ladicola, Shupe. Violence, Inequality and Human Freedom.The Domain of Violence.

Iadicola, Peter, and Anson Shupe. Violence, inequality, and human freedom.

Rowman & Littlefield, 2012

Joas, Hans. The sacredness of the person: A new genealogy of human rights.

Georgetown University Press, 2013.

Turner, Bryan S. “A neo-Hobbesian theory of human rights: a reply to Malcolm Waters.”

Sociology 31.3 (1997): 565-571.