Tendenser : mennesket som samfunnets omverden
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Original versionMoe, Sverre (2008) Tendenser : mennesket som samfunnets omverden. Nordisk tidsskrift for menneskerettigheter, 26(4), pp. 343-348
The pretension of human rights to be universally valid irrespective of contingent historical and societal conditions is questionable. By their very definition, the rights imply a difference between man and society. The pre-modern concept of natural right (lex naturalis) made it reasonable to understand such rights as grounded in an external instance (God). Modern society, evolving from the 16th century, had to produce that reason by itself. The problem then, and now, is to find a societal quality that could ensure the unity of man and society that allowed an understanding of universal human rights as socially grounded. This article discusses the problems associated with the three dominant efforts to define this social quality. Based upon the sociological systems theory of Niklas Luhmann, the article concludes that today’s global society makes any such effort virtually impossible. Instead, I propose grounding human rights in an acknowledgement of the difference between man and society. If we can accept such difference, we will see that human rights are about safeguarding the human environment.