Most people regard the long development of human rights as one of the great achievements of modernity. First crystallized in the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, they received considerable expansion in the group of U.N. documents collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights (1976). Yet in academic circles, the rights tradition has been severely criticized on historical, philosophical, political, cultural, feminist, and religious grounds. Rights have been variously regarded as a "fiction" that presupposes a universal human essence; a view of human nature based on egoism and self-interest; a cover for individualistic capitalism and for imperialistic practices that led to colonialism. For critics of this sort, the truths of the Declaration of Independence are anything but "self-evident." In this book, Fiorenza seeks to clarify two interrelated problems: the post-modern criticism of rights and the relation between religion and human rights. He particularly focuses on the expansion of rights in the U.N. documents, several of which have never been ratified by the United States, and argues that these latter rights, particularly the right to social welfare, better conform to a religious view of the common good. In the end, the relationship between religious belief and human rights is both critically tense and mutually creative.
Table of Contents
1. Challenges to an Ethics of Rights; 2. Rights as Responses to Historical Challenges; 3. Religious Beliefs and the Language about Rights; 4. Rights between Culture and Ethics; 5. Rights and Religious Belief: Creative Tension and Mutual Enrichment; 6. Justice and Charity: The Right to Social Welfare; 7. Pluralism: A Western Commodity or Justice for the Rights of the Other?; 8. Rights: Facing the Universal and the Particular in a Globalized World; 9. Political Theology and the Critique of Modernity; 10. Taking Up the Cultural Challenges to Rights.
Francis Schussler Fiorenza is the Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of Foundational Theology: Jesus and the Church (Crossroad, 1984) and co-editor of the following: Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, with John Galvin (Augsburg Fortress 1991), Habermas, Modernity, and Public Theology, with Don Browning (Crossroad, 1992), and Modern Christian Thought, Vol 2: The Twentieth Century (2nd ed. Prentice-Hall, 1999).