Universal human rights represent the dominant utopianism of our era. This study brings some of the insights of the analysis of domestic civil rights law to the more varied and chaotic field of international human rights. He takes us from Italy and India to Japan and the USA to explore what works and what does not. The utopian idea of universal rights must come down to earth.
The acclaimed author of The Race Card and legal scholar Richard Thompson Ford offers an expert analysis of human rights struggles across the globe, uncovering the complex realities of observing "universal" principles in specific cultures. As he engages thinkers such as Edmund Burke and Karl Marx, Ford sketches divergent views on how we define rights before he offers his critique: on the ground, rights ultimately depend on a dense network of institutions and an underlying civic culture for enforcement. In fact, even well-meaning reforms can lead in practice to increased exploitation of the people they would protect. With a clear, persuasive voice, Ford explores five cases-from distributing food to the poor in India to sex-trafficking in Japan-and drives home a provocative conclusion. We must engage locally-in local laws, institutions, and social relationships-to realize meaningful change. And those who would "speak truth to power" must also acknowledge the potential costs of reform.