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Home > Catalog > Human Rights and their Limits
Human Rights and their Limits


  • Page extent: 262 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.36 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521125239)

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$41.99 (P)

Human Rights and Their Limits shows that the concept of human rights has developed in waves: each call for rights served the purpose of social groups that tried to stop further proliferation of rights once their own goals were reached. While defending the universality of human rights as norms of behavior, Osiatyński admits that the philosophy on human rights does not need to be universal. Instead he suggests that the enjoyment of social rights should be contingent upon the recipient’s contribution to society. He calls for a “soft universalism” that will not impose rights on others but will share the experience of freedom and help the victims of violations. Although a state of unlimited democracy threatens rights, the excess of rights can limit resources indispensable for democracy. This book argues that although rights are a prerequisite of freedom, they should be balanced with other values that are indispensable for social harmony and personal happiness.


1. A short history of human rights; 2. Rights and democracy; 3. Rights and needs; 4. Rights and cultures; 5. Human rights and other values.


"Wiktor Osiatynski has devoted over four decades to promoting human rights in every part of the the world, while thinking deeply in print and otherwise, about the scope and limits of these efforts. This book, the product of those decades, combines profound practical wisdom with wide-ranging scholarship and intellectual rigor. His sensitivity to values and needs other than human rights will not make everyone happy, but for anyone who wants to advance these rights in a very complicated world, this book is required reading."
--Herman Schwartz, Professor of Law, The American University Washington College of Law; Author of The Struggle For Constitutional Justice in Post-Communist Europe (Chicago 2001)

"In Human Rights and Their Limits, Professor Wiktor Osiatynski sets forth a "soft universalism" conception of human rights that focuses on satisfying basic human needs and respecting different cultures, but retreats from the imposition of a particular rights regime. Drawing upon his extensive work on human rights issues in Poland and other transitional countries, Professor Osiatynski details the sociopolitical environments that are most likely to foster development of such rights. His compelling account imagines human rights as a framework of aspirational principles tailored to fit individual states and peoples, interweaving history and philosophy as entry points for illustration and debate. Professor Osiatynski concludes that although human rights are worthy goals, they must be weighed against other competing social and cultural values. Overall, Human Rights and Their Limits offers a valuable contribution to the existing human rights literature by identifying competing social values and redefining universal rights in more pragmatic terms.
Harvard Law Review

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