Confucianism and human rights

Authored by: Justin Tiwald

Handbook of Human Rights

Print publication date:  September  2011
Online publication date:  February  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415480239
eBook ISBN: 9780203887035
Adobe ISBN: 9781134019083


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One of the most accessible ways to wrap one's mind around the controversy over Confucianism and human rights is to consider what would happen to a well-functioning family if it instituted many of the same practices as rights-protecting societies. As many Confucians see rights-protecting societies, their members have certain obligations to others by virtue of the fact that they are fellow citizens or fellow human beings, not by virtue of being friends, cousins, neighbors, or siblings. People are free or even encouraged to lay claim to their rights when they are threatened, and when they do so there are formal and often informal mechanisms that help to protect them. When they invoke their rights, they typically invoke them against other citizens, creating a potentially adversarial relationship between them. And the rights that people claim tend to be fixed and non-negotiable, making them less inclined to look for ways to harmonize their interests with one another.

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