The Challenge of Human Rights: Origin, Development and Significance / Edition 1

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The Challenge of Human Rights traces the history of human rights theory from classical antiquity through the enlightenment to the modern human rights movement, and analyses the significance of human rights in today's increasingly globalized world. In this illuminating study, Jack Mahoney surveys and critiques the emerging awareness in history of human rights as an invaluable ethical resource; chronicles their growing recognition and acceptance in modern times; analyses their contents, details, and philosophical basis; and illustrates their relevance and significance today.

Unparalleled in scope and clarity, this engaging book: critically examines the arguments for human rights and offers an original defence for them; explores the meaning of human rights in the context of increasing globalization; confronts the major objections to human rights, including the charge of Western ethical imperialism and the counterclaims of cultural relativism. Mahoney concludes that human rights are an indispensable addition to modern ethical resources and logically culminate in a cosmopolitan recognition of the whole human race as a single moral family.

About the Author:
Jack Mahoney is Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Theology in the University of London

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jack Mahoney has produced an account of human rights that speaks directly to contemporary audiences. It dodges none of the hard questions and its defence of human rights rings true as a result. It is a scholarly but also an intellectually exciting read." Conor Gearty, London School of Economics and Political Science

“Mahoney's text is excellent; it makes complicated issues accessible without lapsing into oversimplification. This is no small achievement and makes the text especially well-suited to undergraduate teaching. The range of issues covered is surprisingly comprehensive yet by no means superficial. The combination of philosophy and history is a major virtue.” Maurice Wade, Trinity College

"Mahoney carefully surveys and discusses the various attempts to explain human rights in order to formulate a single, compelling, logical proof for their existence."
America, The National Catholic Weekly

"This book may be useful as an introduction to the concept of human rights." Journal of Peace Research

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405152419
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/23/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Mahoney is Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Theology in the University of London and is a former Principal of Heythrop College, University of London. He is the author of several books and of many articles on general and applied ethics, including medical ethics, business and professional ethics and theological ethics, and he has lectured and broadcast widely in these subjects at home and abroad.

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Table of Contents



1. Human Rights in History.

The Ancient Classical World.

The World of the Bible.

The Medieval World.

Renaissance and Reformation Thought.

Hobbes and Rousseau.

Revolution in England.

American Independence.

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man.

English Resistance to Human Rights.

German Developments: Kant and Marx.

2. The Modern Human Rights Movement.

The Charter of the United Nations Organization.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Continental Developments.

The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights.

Wider Human Rights Developments.

British Developments.


3. Clarifying Human Rights.

Some Useful Distinctions.

Rights and Duties.

The Proliferation of Rights.


Selfishness and Social Divisiveness.

Ethical Imperialism?.

A Challenge to All Cultures.

The Strengths of Human Rights.

4. Establishing Human Rights.

A Matter of Belief.

An Essential Requirement.

The Nature of Persons.

Intuitionist Approaches.

Human Dignity.

“The Wonder of Our Being”.

Major Opponents.


5. The Globalizing of Human Rights.

Global Expansion.

Seeking a Global Ethic.

Cultural Relativism.

Global Human Rights.

Towards Cosmopolitanism.

The Inadequacies of States.

“Principled” Cosmopolitanism.

Human Solidarity.



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