Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry: (The University Center for Human Values Series) Hardcover – 28 Oct 2001
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"Michael Ignatieff is one of the few people who give political theory a good name. He writes about interesting things in an interesting way, without using jargon and without any attempt to engage in covert practical politics. His essays on human rights display all of these virtues . . . and should be read immediately by anyone who has more than a passing interest in the political landscape of the twenty-first century."--Oliver Letwin, Times Literary Supplement
"Bracing. . . . If anyone is superbly equipped to scrutinize the hybrid of theory and practical exigency at the heart of human-rights thinking, it's this unique, independent veteran of the world's war zones. . . . [This is] the shrewdest, subtlest, most realistic assessment of the logic of human rights in years."--Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
"One of the most pleasing aspects of Michael Ignatieff's frequent contributions to the human rights debate is the clarity with which he writes about a subject beset as never before by uncertainty and disagreement. Not least of the achievements of Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry . . . is the simplicity and common sense Ignatieff introduces. And at a time when it has become fashionable to deride the gains made by the human rights movement over the years, his cautious optimism is refreshing."--Caroline Moorehead, The Spectator
"This book . . . confirms Michael Ignatieff's reputation as one of the most interesting commentators on human rights issues. . . . An excellent little book. It deserves to be widely read among all those interested in human rights issues. . . . One finds oneself eagerly anticipating Ignatieff's next contribution."--David Petrasek, Ethics and International Affairs
"This elegant book is a spirited attempt to put flesh on the bones of . . . politics and reunite theoretical questing with real-world situations."--Alex Clark, The Sunday Times (London)
"[A] cogent analysis of the crusade for human rights. . . . The author gives a sympathetic analysis of its problems. . . . His views ring true, and he writes lucidly."--Kirkus Reviews
"A philosophical liberal and a strong believer in the power of constitutions, Ignatieff boldly confronts difficult issues. . . . [He] illuminates complexities likely to make headlines as the call for intervention regarding worldwide human rights continues to grow. This book will undoubtedly provoke controversy within the human rights community."--Publishers Weekly
"Carefully crafted, simple and direct prose working in the service of insightful analysis and passionate yet restrained advocacy . . . presented in a style that will both engage specialists and attract intelligent general readers--by a committed liberal humanist (and sympathetic critic) on the difficulties of the contemporary struggle for human rights. It is a 'must read' for anyone seriously interested in, or desiring a thoughtful general overview of, the struggle for universal human rights in contemporary international society."--Jack Donnelly, International Affairs
From the Back Cover
"These essays make a splendid book. Ignatieff's lectures are engaging and vigorous; they also combine some rather striking ideas with savvy perceptions about actual domestic and international politics. They spark lively and distinctive discussion among the distinguished respondents. Ignatieff's response to them is also vibrant. Ignatieff presents a sharp and vital argument for human rights that can be reconciled with state sovereignty, that can defend against charges of imperialism without caving in to the moral relativism bandwagon, and that can navigate reciprocal respect between people and between nations."--Martha Minow, Harvard University
"These essays are superb: elegant and thought-provoking. The literature on human rights is growing, both on the practical side and the theoretical. But this book combines both, with Ignatieff's nuanced grasp of real-world politics meshing with his impressive knowledge of political theory. There is no one I can think of who combines the two so well. The scholarship is first-rate, the writing is splendid, and the commentaries are excellent."--Gary Bass, author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Ignatieff's two opening essays are followed by observations from other commentators; which in-turn are followed by closing remarks from the author. This type of discussion format is normally quite beneficial in helping readers to gain an appreciation of a given subject from a different perspectives. Unfortunately, in this work the additional commentators are to close to the author's ideological view to be of any real value. Dianne Orentlicher's observations were ok, however, the others were weak - characterized by too much flattery and self-aggrandizement.
The opening essays introduce a range of concerns within the contemporary human rights movement. Ignatieff identified relevant concerns such as; the tension between individual and collective rights, the view that the human rights movement is a type of Western imperialism, whether secular human rights is a form of cultural relativism as well as the need to balance rights and security/stability. I have heard the author speak on foreign policy issues and find him to be a generally capable foreign policy commentator.
Overall, there is not much of value in this book. If handled from a broader perspective these issues could be a worthwhile read. In its current form, however, I do not recommend it.
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