Tony Evans, 'The Politics of Human Rights: a global perspective'

IssueSeptember - November 2001
Review by Juliet McBride

Though a relatively short book, this is a dense and scholarly work. It attempts to contextualise human rights within a three-fold setting - the philosophical, the legal and the political - with the emphasis on the latter, and usually least acknowledged, area.

It is a book which needs careful reading since it condenses many of the current and past theories in international relations, and critiques them in the light of the new era of globalisation, whilst never losing sight of what actually happens on the ground.

The basic message is spelt out loud and clear throughout the book: it is not possible to understand the current position of human rights without seeing the context in which they operate - ie who wins and who loses; who is visible and who is invisible; what is indispensable (capital, and the neoliberal free trade ideology), and the civil and political “rights” which support this process, and what is dispensable - those who impede the process, and the economic and social rights which might support them within the process of global capitalism.

Tony Evans draws attention to the structural violence inherent in capitalism as a contrast to the individualist responsibility assumed by both the philosophy and law of human rights language. He warns that human rights language, as used by neoliberalists, can be used to support the negation of real human rights of real people.

This is a very useful book for those who wish to understand the position of human rights in today's world. For me it joined up the theoretical and intellectual content of human rights with the practical reality of the winners and losers in an era during which human rights has become a household term.

Topics: Human rights
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