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Reimagining Human Rights

Religion and the Common Good
  • By William R. O''Neill
Product Description

An interpretation of human rights that centers on the rhetorical--and religious--power of testimony.

Jeremy Bentham described the idea of human rights as "rhetorical nonsense." In Reimagining Human Rights, William O'Neill shows that the rhetorical aspect of human rights is in fact crucial. By examining how victims and their advocates embrace the rhetoric of human rights to tell their stories, he presents an interpretation of human rights "from below," showing what victims of atrocity and advocates do with rights.

Drawing on African writings that center around victims' stories--including Desmond Tutu's on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission--and modern Roman Catholic social teaching, O'Neill reconciles the false dichotomy between the individualistic perspective of the human rights theories of Immanuel Kant, Jürgen Habermas, and John Rawls and local or ethnocentric conceptions of the common good in Alasdair MacIntyre and Richard Rorty. He shows that the testimony of victims leads us to a new conception of the common good, based on rights as narrative grammar--that is, rights are not only a grammar of dissent against atrocity but let new stories be told.

O'Neill shows how the rhetoric of human rights can dismantle old narratives of power and advance new ones, reconstructing victim's claims, often in a religious key, along the way. He then applies this new approach to three areas: race and mass incarceration in the United States, the politics of immigration and refugee policy, and ecological responsibility and our duties to the next generation.

--Elias O. Opongo, SJ, director of the Centre for Research, Training and Publications, Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR), Hekima University College, Nairobi, Kenya
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  • Additional Details
  • Additional Details
    Product Specs
    • SKU: 9781647120344
    • ISBN 13: 9781647120344
    • Publication Date: 01/01/2021
    • Format: Hardcover
    • Author: William R. O''Neill

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