Human Rights and John Rawls The Law of Peoples
Abstract: Which political and juridical foundation can justify the transit from the Western, particular, to the universal? John Rawls tries to answer this question in his article, "The Law of Peoples," proposing a kind of contract or agreement. A first agreement should be attained among liberal-democratic societies on a few political and social issues such as human rights. Then this agreement can be widened to non-liberal/democratic but well organized hierarchical societies or those that satisfy the requisites of being peaceful, of having a reasonably well organized legal system, of admitting a measure of freedom-political and religious-and of admitting the right of emigration. These two groups of nations would belong to a Society of Nations with the juridical and political duty of fulfilling the few political issues that have been previously accepted. But Rawls' proposal overcomes neither eurocentrism nor western-centrism. It seems that the first circle of liberal democratic nations would decide which peoples satisfy the requirements of the 'well organized hierarchical societies.' This second circle of nations are only invited peoples; they are not supposed to contribute new proposals, but only to accept the proposals of the liberal-democratic nations. I present a new effort to attain human rights through a true universal dialogue in which the representatives of all cultures and peoples can equally speak, make proposals, and listen or accept the proposals of others.
I. RAISING THE ISSUE
Human rights, specially those belonging to the first generation, as they are expressed in "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" of December, 10th, 1948, are the end product of a long historical process inside Western Culture and whose previous stages are the English Revolution of 1648, the Declaration of American Independence of 1776, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of August, 1789. These documents, at the same time, take back the sociopolitical thought that had been developped in a long tradition, and whose most striking stages are: the supreme value of reason as basis for any sociopolitical relation such as we discover at the Greek Polis and such as it is presented by the great thinkers Plato and Aristotle; the intrinsic value of human person, son of the same Christian God, and capable, because of his freedom, either of salvation or of condemnation, as it was understood by the main thinkers in the Middle Ages; the human Individual, considered as a juridical subject, capable of making contracts and assuming rights and duties and, therefore, as the last foundation of any sociopolitical organization, as he was thought by the liberal tradition embodied by Hobbes, Locke and the Encyclopedists. The concrete praxis of these theoretical principles in democratic societies and nations where the Individuals are the cause and the end of this sociopolitical order such as we find in Great...