The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights

Overview

Conventional wisdom holds that human rights emerged from the spirit of the French Revolution, itself a political expression of the French Enlightenment, which was commonly seen as anticlerical and anti-Christian and antireligious. An alternative interpretation contends that the current human rights regime is the result of the Judeo-Christian tradition, paved by the understanding of the human person imparted by the Christian gospels. Drawing on sociologists such as Durkheim and Weber and Troetsch, Joas sets out a ...
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The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights

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Overview

Conventional wisdom holds that human rights emerged from the spirit of the French Revolution, itself a political expression of the French Enlightenment, which was commonly seen as anticlerical and anti-Christian and antireligious. An alternative interpretation contends that the current human rights regime is the result of the Judeo-Christian tradition, paved by the understanding of the human person imparted by the Christian gospels. Drawing on sociologists such as Durkheim and Weber and Troetsch, Joas sets out a new path and proposes an alternative genealogy. He proposes that the modern belief in human rights and universal human dignity is the result of a process of "sacralization," in which every single human being has increasingly been viewed as sacred. Two milestones of this process in the modern era, Joas points out, were the abolition of torture and slavery--common practices in the pre-18th century West. This process of "sacralization" culminates in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, demonstrating how values--what Joas calls value generalization--can shift over time and reflect human progress.
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What People Are Saying


"If we have anything like a global ethic, and not just one on paper but that is motivating people all over the world to take action to make things better, it is human rights. I have read much on this subject but nothing comes close to what Hans Joas has done in this brilliant new book. He somehow brings the reader into the intensely exciting history of where the idea of human rights came from, how many major issues it has taken on, and where it might go.... This is a book for teachers and students, but really for everyone in the world who is trying to make it better." -- Robert N. Bellah, Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley

"Eschewing ahistorical rational justifications of timeless universal values as well as debunking genealogical deconstructions of historical origins, Hans Joas offers an affirmative genealogy of human rights as a fruitful alternative. The book links brilliant theoretical argumentation with gripping phenomenological narrative as it illuminates modern processes of sacralization of the human person. This tour de force is obligatory reading for anybody interested in the birth, contingent history, and fragile fate of human rights in our global age." -- Jose Casanova, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University

"Hans Joas presents fresh insights for all those who are interested in the debate on the foundations of human rights and their universal character. Due to the innovative character of its approach and to the clarity of its argument, this book will become one of the most important publications on the genesis and validity of human rights." -- Wolfgang Huber, Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany from 2003-2009 and coauthor of Violence: The Unrelenting Assault on Human Dignity

"One of the world's most distinguished social philosophers takes on one of the most pressing issues of our times and offers an entirely original approach. No one interested in human rights can afford to ignore this book." -- Lynn Hunt, Eugen Weber Professor, UCLA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589019690
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2013
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 791,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Hans Joas is professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, where he also belongs to the Committee on Social Thought, and at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where he is a Permanent Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, School of History.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

1. The Charisma of Reason: The Genesis of Human Rights

2. Punishment and Respect: The Sacralization of the Person and the Forces Threatening It

3. Violence and Human Dignity: How Experiences Become Rights

4. Neither Kant nor Nietzsche: What Is Affirmative Genealogy?

5. Soul and Gift: The Human Being as Image and Child of God

6. Value Generalization: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Plurality of Cultures

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