The main elements of critique leveled by Communitarian and Marxist perspectives against the Universalist conceptualization of human rights
Universalism which refers to the concept of a universal theory of human rights states that “each and every human being holds basic rights”, by virtue of being humans which is an inherent right that supersedes any form of cultural, religious, or political orientation. Despite the contention of the actual nature of human rights that should be guaranteed for all human beings, universalism does identify a set of three basic human rights that should not be contented.
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These are the right to security and integrity, right to private property, and freedom of expression; it is these rights that have been challenged by various critiques using various ideologies that are often incompatible with the principles of universalism. In this section, we will explore two such critiques leveled by communitarians and Marxists.
The major contention of Communitarian with the ideologies of Universalism can be traced to the major element that each ideology advocates; Universalism focus is on the individual who is the central component of its foundation. Communitarian focus is on the community as a group whose existence supersedes the interest of the individual, hence Communitarian advocates for the right of community and waters down the need for” individual rights”; this is also found to be the ideology held by Marxism.
This is because the Marxist perspective on human rights is markedly far from Universalism but not completely incompatible with Communitarian. Marxism asserts that “individual rights are a social creation and a product of human nature” that is determined by the circumstances of the society at that time advocated by their legal systems.
This Marxism perspective on the role of the government in the equation of human rights is aligned with Communitarian principles which hold that community and government interest are the same implying that individuals need not advocate for their personal interests through the pursuit of human rights. Marxism and Communitarian ideologies are also similar as far as the relationship between individual and society is concerned; Marxism argues that advancing the human rights of the community also consequently advances that of the individual, we found this to be the view held by Communitarian as well.
However, Marxism and Communitarians differ in their critique of Universalism because Marxism recognizes social factors as the determinants of human rights while Communitarian bases the determinants of human rights to be the government.
Dalai Lama’s response to cultural relativist critiques regarding the alleged shortcomings of universalism
Cultural Relativism ideology has its roots in Marxism and holds that “individuals are defined by the rites, beliefs, and traditions of the community to which they belong”, the implication is that no universal laws or values can be developed which will be applicable to all human race because the socio-cultural factors that determine the human values tend to differ in each community. In a speech delivered in Vienna Dalai Lama attacks the critics that object to principles of Universal human rights by asserting the virtues of Universalism in the Contemporary world.
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Dalai Lama recognizes that all human races share common aspirations regardless of their origin, religion, culture, and political aspirations that notably involve the pursuit of happiness, freedom, and peace thereby echoing the same words contained in the American Declaration of Independence.
It is through these aspirations alone that we can obtain the necessary confirmation to know that all humans are the same and that universal human rights can be indeed be achieved. Rather than viewing the social characteristics of a community such as culture, traditions, politics, and economic activities as a hindrance to the achievement of universal human rights, Dalai points out that lack of these human rights is in fact what abstracts the attainment of ideal social-cultural characteristics that are universal. In his view, Dalai Lama states that the virtue of human rights supersedes the culture and traditions of any society that is incompatible with the values upheld by the Universal Human Rights laws.
In a clear reference to Africa and Asia, Dalai’s take on the challenges of adopting human rights is that these countries should tap on their diversity to strengthen and further the principles contained in universal human rights.
What Dalai Lama observes is that authoritarian regime are opposed to ideologies of universal human rights in order to continue oppressing the people, implying that the diversity and religion that is cited by these leaders are actually excuses that are aimed at discrediting the noble ideology of universal human rights. What Dalai Lama observed 17 years ago in Vienna when he mentioned that “the world is becoming one community” is certainly the case now. With the increased interactions of all people in the world, Dalai’s call to the human race is to develop “a greater sense of universal responsibility” which can only be best achieved through Universal Human Rights.