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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 23, 2007

International Law and Justice

P. J. Lomelino
Pages 87-101
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday20072316

Individuals and Relational Beings
Expanding the Universal Human Rights Model

Currently, the universal human rights model relies on the notion of individual human rights. According to Michael Ignatieff, this is based on the fact that universal human rights are necessarily individual rights. However, there are cultures in which persons define themselves as relational beings (firmly believing that the foundation of their value as persons rests in their being an integral part of a larger whole rather than their being identified as an individual self). Thus, the problem arises as to whether universal human rights can apply to such persons. In this paper, I will argue that Ignatieff is mistaken; there can be (both theoretically and practically) collective human rights. Moreover, respect for human agency requires us to incorporate collective human rights into the universal human rights model so as to make these rights applicable to all human beings—individuals and relational beings.

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