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Human Rights in Thick and Thin Societies
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Book description

Socio-centric societies have vibrant - albeit different - concepts of human flourishing than is typical in the individualistic West. These concepts influence the promotion of human rights, both in domestic contexts with religious minorities and in international contexts where Western ideals may clash with local norms. Human Rights in Thick and Thin Societies uncovers the original intentions of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, finds inspiration from early leaders in the field like Eleanor Roosevelt, and examines the implications of recent advances in cultural psychology for understanding difference. The case studies included illustrate the need to vary the application of human rights in differing cultural environments, and the book suggests a new framework: a flexible universalism that returns to basics - focusing on the great evils of the human condition. This approach will help the human rights movement succeed in a multipolar era.


'In this timely and eminently readable book, Seth D. Kaplan charts a path for the survival of the universal human rights idea in an increasingly inter-dependent and conflict-ridden world. His ‘flexible pluralist’ approach is a fitting tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its seventieth anniversary.'

Mary Ann Glendon - Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University, Massachusetts

'Universal claims to human rights appeal to our common humanity, but they can provoke resistance - both at home and abroad - when they fail to acknowledge varied cultural and religious contexts. Seth D. Kaplan's book is at once a guide to this resistance, an analysis of cultural diversity, and a program for dealing with disagreement and protecting those rights most critical to human flourishing.'

Michael Walzer - Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

'This book explores the tension between universal human rights and cultural particularity with theoretical sophistication and empirical depth. It is the best effort I know to give each of these claims its due - and to chart a course that combines strengths of both into practical guidance for reformers. Even readers who disagree with some of Kaplan's recommendations will profit from his path-breaking analysis.'

Bill Galston - Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Washington DC

'This brilliant book both honors and advances the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. As he traces the fate of moral universals in culture and history, Seth D. Kaplan shows us how to be a moral pluralist and uphold principal rights at the same time - how to be a social justice advocate without being parochial and ethnocentric. It is a great accomplishment.'

Richard Shweder - Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

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