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New Left Review 21, May-June 2003


Dogmatic foundations as an invariant of all civilizations, and the religious origins of the contemporary doctrine of human rights in the West. Can, despite its undemonstrability, a particular creed become a common resource of humanity, appropriated in different ways across the planet?

ALAIN SUPIOT

THE LABYRINTH OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Credo or Common Resource?

Far from being a radically new phenomenon, ‘globalization’ is the latest stage of a process that has unfolded over several centuries, and whose origins can be traced to the Renaissance and the conquest of the New World. Ever since the extermination of America’s indigenous population, that process has been at one with the domination of Western countries over all others. This ascendancy has rested not on any physical or moral superiority of the West, but on the material power afforded by its science and technology—which, like the market economy, are products of Western civilization and still closely bound up with it. Western science was founded on the belief that God had bequeathed the earth to man, that he had organized nature according to immutable laws, and that knowledge of these laws would give man mastery over nature. The material strength of the West thus owes much to Christianity, which has cemented its identity.

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Alain Supiot, ‘The Labyrinth of Human Rights’, NLR 21: £3
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