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Rescuing Human Rights
A Radically Moderate Approach

$32.99 (P)

  • Date Published: April 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108405362
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About the Authors
  • The development of human rights norms is one of the most significant achievements in international relations and law since 1945, but the continuing influence of human rights is increasingly being questioned by authoritarian governments, nationalists, and pundits. Unfortunately, the proliferation of new rights, linking rights to other issues such as international crimes or the activities of business, and attempting to address every social problem from a human rights perspective risk undermining their credibility. Rescuing Human Rights calls for understanding 'human rights' as international human rights law and maintaining the distinctions between binding legal obligations on governments and broader issues of ethics, politics, and social change. Resolving complex social problems requires more than simplistic appeals to rights, and adopting a 'radically moderate' approach that recognizes both the potential and the limits of international human rights law, offers the best hope of preserving the principle that we all have rights, simply because we are human.

    • Creates a better and more realistic understanding of human rights in the world
    • Distinguishes human rights from other elements of both foreign policy and social change
    • This book is accessible to a wide audience, not just human rights lawyers and activists
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘Rescuing Human Rights is a superbly researched and highly readable diagnosis of the many ailments afflicting contemporary human rights advocacy. Whether or not one agrees with his prescriptions, Hurst Hannum's comprehensive and provocative analysis clearly delineates the issues and provides an excellent starting point for debate.' John Shattuck, Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic

    ‘I warmly recommend this impressive evaluation of human rights as we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century. It is essential reading for human rights practitioners, teachers, politicians and concerned citizens.' Richard J. Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the UN Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

    'With Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach, Hurst Hannum makes an important and timely contribution to a necessary stocktaking by the global human rights movement.' Peter Splinter, International Service for Human Rights (

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    Customer reviews

    01st Aug 2019 by PGSplinter1

    With Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach, Hurst Hannum makes an important and timely contribution to a necessary stocktaking by the global human rights movement. Hannum argues the case for a hard-headed reassessment of what human rights are and what they can achieve, done with the aim of preventing unrealistic expansion or overreach that undermines their legitimacy and universal acceptance. His lucid argument for greater focus and humility in recourse to human rights and his call for the recalibration of the scope of human rights advocacy should form part of any discussion about the future of human rights. Rescuing Human Rights merits reading and reflection by all who study, defend or promote human rights in international fora.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108405362
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of abbreviations
    1. Introduction: assumptions and principles
    2. Crime and (occasional) punishment
    3. The importance of government, for better or worse
    4. Human rights and … whatever
    5. Undermining old rights with new ones: you can't always get what you want
    6. Women, sex, and gender
    7. The flexibility of human rights norms: universality is not uniformity
    8. Human rights hawks
    9. The indispensable state? The United States and human rights
    10. The way forward: less is more

  • Author

    Hurst Hannum, Tufts University, Massachusetts
    Hurst Hannum is Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts. He has authored numerous books and articles on human rights and has served as counsel and advocate before European, inter-American, and UN human rights institutions.

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