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The Last Utopia - Human Rights in History (Anglais) Broché – 2 mars 2012

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Book by Moyn Samuel

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18 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The recency and contingency of individualist notions of human rights 21 décembre 2010
Par Nils Gilman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It is rare one has the pleasure to read a book which both has a sharp, iconoclastic thesis, and in which the author is obviously working out, right before you, his own moral ambivalences about the subject he is writing about. The Last Utopia is just such a book.

Moyn's argument is simple: that the idea of individual "human rights," far from being an ancient tradition harkening back to the French Revolution, or even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a phenomenon of much more recent vintage, specifically of the mid-1970s, and that the reason it arose when it did was that it filled a void left by the collapse of alternative, collective notions of human emancipation (e.g. socialism). (This chart graphically illustrates the point Moyn makes in qualitative detail: [...]

Human rights, in other words, was a specifically anti-political reaction to the failures of other, more political Gods. But at the same time, it is precisely its anti-politics that has limited human rights' effectiveness and scope. On the one hand, human rights advocates have been fundamentally ambivalent about how to incorporate social and economic exclusions that undermine the meaningfulness of political rights; on the other hand, the language of human rights has revealed itself as all too readily hijackable by rights-negating militarists like George W. Bush. In the end, Moyn points out that this "last utopia," while noble in conception, is also limited in its effectiveness, and may indeed require a renewal of more collective notions of utopia in order to realize its promises.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Fascinating and Forward Thinking 21 novembre 2010
Par ActorReader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Samuel Moyn's book is bold in its theory, and accessible in its logical reasoning. Moyn breaks down the view of Human Rights History as a long steady building to the current movement. Instead he recognizes the significant and recent leaps of thinkers in the 70's. In looking at this recent history he brings important questions about the relevance and nature of the Human Rights Movement today. I recommend this to anyone who cares about the Human Rights Movement and is willing to think critically about it. Great read.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Human Rights in History 20 mai 2014
Par Scott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Samuel Moyn's argument in The Last Utopia suggests that the origins of human rights, as a "utopian program" to transcend national bounderies, is a contemporary idea (5). It is utopian because the movement's nature is politically neutral while implemented universally beyond ethical and national law standards. Through an explanation of classical Greek concepts, revolutions, and the Enlightenment, Moyn successfully discards previous scholarship that attempts to `date' human rights. Rather, he claims the recent human rights movement only manifested in the 1970s during a time of failed utopias such as communism, fascism, and socialism (3-5). Moyn's reasons that the origin of human rights' importance is to assist scholars in realizing human rights as a last utopian ideal and movement (214). For, "if the past is read as preparation for a surprising recent event," then it is that both the past and the present notions concerning human rights that are "distorted" (11). Yet, Moyn's seeking to discard previous interpretations of philosophy and historiography to establish a contemporary origin for human rights impedes `rights' work already established. In other words, all the world's revolutions and era of Enlightenment have facilitated in setting humanity upon the course toward recognizing human rights. Each step was a gradual shift toward realization. To discard that rhetoric simply for the sake of `dating' human rights in the 1970s, and through an American perspective no less, seems a bit arbitrary as each historical era appears to have interpreted `rights' differently.

To emphasize his points each chapter is constructed to flow chronologically to provide crucial insight into his argument. The treatise opens with a focus on classical rights talk that influenced the revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Moyn shows that the contemporary origins of human rights is not within these earlier ideas. Rather, he claims earlier motivations of individual rights and civil rights were inspired by the creation of state sovereignty. Therefore, the setting of state boundaries were not the same as setting the boundaries for universal human rights. Yet, through Moyn's backward-looking trajectory of history, where he utilizes a contemporary understanding of human rights against earlier constructs, inhibits us from identifying `human rights talk' within original individual rights of man philosophy. That is to say, that Moyn's contemporary definition of human rights does not fit those of ancient history. However, Moyn's transition to the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights at the start of the Cold War falls in line with the recent international trends in the historiography as he shows that human rights became marginalized in order to preserve global national and corporate interests (68-71).

Moyn then explains why the origins of human rights do not rest in the 1940s. He concludes that human rights did not take off during this era due to the creation of new nation-states and the partition of Europe at the onset of the Cold War. It, however, seems more likely that the number of stateless people who roamed Europe in the 1940s, as postulated by Hannah Arendt, also worked against the establishment of a universal human rights movement during this era as well. He attributes the marginalization of human rights to European decolonization and anticolonialism efforts of Middle Eastern nations to claim sovereignty through self-determination as new nation-states.

Moyn is adamant about showing decolonization and anticolonialism in the Middle Eastern nation-states was more about a proclamation to self-determination than it was about disseminating human rights (85). But it stands to reason that if an eventual focus on the individual is forthcoming, then an organization of nation-states is also warranted. That is to suggest that if human rights are to going to find success internationally and universally, the world organization of nation-states must first be established ans consequently stabilized. Nonetheless, Moyn proves again that the origins of human rights are not found in the anticolonial movements either as self-determination toward statehood was their primary goal.

The true utopian project of human rights does not manifest until the 1970s with the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. Where his inaugural address marked the first time in (human?) history that a leader claimed to embed human rights within foreign policy. To be sure, Carter specifically incorporated human rights rhetoric as an umbrella to encompass, democracy promotion, genocide prevention and a host of other American ideals (158). As Moyn posits, discussions that concerned US foreign policy "were permanently altered, with new relevance for a `moral' option that now referred explicitly to individual human rights" (158). The "moral" turn in US foreign policy was soon corrupted, first by Carters insistence on looking the other way concerning leftist political dictators, and then by the Reagan Administration who conversely went after them. In the later years, human rights became a political device used to justify US foreign invasion (173). In locating the true origin of human rights, Moyn allows future historians to assess the progress of human rights and their consequent mutations. For it is the inevitable outcome that for an egalitarian ideal such as human rights, in order to universally manifest as the law of the land, must be embedded into the absurdity of politics where it must undergo the careful scrutiny of self-interested lawyers and businessmen.
9 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Utopia or bust 20 octobre 2010
Par Hande Z - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If this is an alternative history of human rights it is because Samuel Moyn makes us examine the development of human rights in spite of the missed opportunities such as those that accrued in past struggles from colonialism to independence. Why was it that Ho Chi Minh failed to grasp the straw that the declaration of Human Rights 1948 offered him? How was it that in spite of all the missed opportunities human rights managed to add flesh to the civil rights movement? He examines the American turn in which the Reagan and Carter administration managed to make human rights a distinctly political rhetoric and from there to the modern flash in which human rights became a universal and prolific cry. Yet, in spite of all that, we are far from the utopia that human rights hold such promise. That might well be because "Human rights were the victims of their own vagueness". The deep and intellectual study carries with it a pessimistic outlook, but one can see a glimmer of hope - provided that we understand what it means and how it should be.
8 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Disappointing 4 décembre 2013
Par Mike B - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I did want to like this book; it is about the history of the development of human rights – specifically the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” made by the United Nations in 1948.

The author outlines how Human Rights went into hibernation immediately after its “Declaration”. Instead, what took precedence was self-determination in the form of the removal of colonial imperialistic ties. In some ways nationalism (self-determination) was linked to human rights – as in the right of nationality. It was only with the growing disenchantment with the Cold War and the end of the romance with communism in the 1970s that there was a growing realization that nationalistic self-determination of the new nation states did not mean the practice of human rights. As the title of the book suggests the utopia of communism/capitalism gave way to that of very basic human rights.

We are given an overview of how Amnesty International grew and how Jimmy Carter pushed human rights onto the world stage. Regardless of the problems of the U.S. being an advocate of human rights President Carter must be given credit for putting this moralistic platform onto the top of his agenda – Ronald Reagan was far more hypocritical of human rights. The author also tells us that Western European countries have increasingly espoused human rights over the years and made it a part of the European Community.

This book is written from a very lofty altitude with a lot of name-dropping of international philosopher lawyer types – and has very little concrete examples of what human rights have accomplished (or attempted to) over the years. He does not even bring up one Article or passages of the Declaration and discuss its implications and what they mean for developing countries. Dissidents in the Soviet Union are brought up and to a lesser extent Latin America – hardly anything on Africa, China, and the Middle East. The rights and the emancipation of women are not discussed at all – think of women in Afghanistan, Pakistan. The book hardly discusses anything after 1980 even though it was published in 2010 – I found this most perplexing and a letdown. The writing style ranges from the opaque (professorial) to being very repetitive – we are told over and over again that self-determination and sovereignty do not imply human rights. If this book were longer it would have been prohibitive.
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