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Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice [Paperback]

Jack Donnelly
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 31, 2002 0801487765 978-0801487767 2

In a thoroughly revised second edition of Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Jack Donnelly elaborates a theory of human rights, addresses arguments of cultural relativism, and explores the efficacy of bilateral and multilateral international action. Entirely new chapters address prominent post-Cold War issues including humanitarian intervention, democracy and human rights, "Asian values," group rights, and discrimination against sexual minorities.

"Every once in a while a book appears that treats the leading issues of a subject in such a clear and challenging manner that it becomes central to understanding that subject. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice is just such a book. . . . Donnelly's interpretations are clear and argued with zest."—American Political Science Review (reviewing the first edition)

Editorial Reviews


"What Donnelly does better than anyone else is to lay before the reader a coherent conceptual framework for an understanding of international human rights as an operative part of international life. . . .Part of what makes this book such a work of academic excellence is the extent to which each sentence imparts the sense of being carefully wrought and fully considered. It remains at the top of any bibliography of indispensable books dealing with human rights."—Richard Falk, Human Rights and Human Welfare (Vol.3, 2003)

"This wide-ranging book looks at all aspects of human rights, drawing upon political theory, sociology, and international relations as well as international law. . . . Donnelly deals successfully with two of the principal challenges to the notion of the universality of human rights: the argument that some non-Western societies are not subject to Western norms, and the claim that economic development may require the sacrifice of some human rights."—Foreign Affairs (reviewing the first edition)

About the Author

Jack Donnelly is Andrew Mellon Professor and John Evans Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. His other books include International Human Rights and Realism in International Relations.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 2 edition (October 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487767
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great introduction to human rights February 13, 2011
By zach h
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I decided to try this book for an introductory course I'm teaching about human rights. This turned out to be a mistake. Donnelly presents the case for his own 'constructivist' account of human rights but doesn't do enough to give a fair account of alternative theories. As a result, this book isn't great as an introduction to the field. It might, I guess, be of interest to those who are already familiar with the human rights literature and so don't need to be exposed to a broader range of theories. Even so, because Donnelly doesn't engage sufficiently with opposing theoretical accounts (there are plenty from which to choose), his own conclusions are likely to strike those familiar with what else is on offer as too quick, and not particularly compelling.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Starter and a Reference January 10, 2007
In a sense, this book is so good it doesn't need a review. Almost everyone knows that the Donnelly book is the standard and most readable text on human rights theory. It is a good starter book for the beginner. You'll learn something new on every page. My copy is full of irresistable, self-made underlines, markings, and comments in the margins. It's also a good reference book, one that you'll return to time and time again. Donnelly's method of abbreviation, for example, is standard for the main UN proclamation and two binding covenants (treaties): (U for UDHR; E for CESCR; and C for CCPR). The book differentiates between regimes that exist for declaratory or promotional purposes and those which are involved in implementation of policy or monitoring and enforcement, and Donnelly pulls no punches when pointing out that some state reports in response to Protocol complaints are nothing more than farces. It is found, for example, that there is little reason why the Arab League and various Third Way movements should even be considered human rights organizations. Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, but... February 27, 2011
I'll split the difference, and say that while this is probably the gold standard for undergraduate texts on human rights, it does suffer from the serious flaws that Zach H notes. It has a decided bias in favor of the individualist perspective, to the point where his discussions of relativism come off as straw man arguments. He doesn't give them their due. Furthermore his utilitarian justification that rights are universal rests almost entirely on the nearly unanimous initial vote in the General Assembly for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This isn't terribly compelling, considering the number of abstentions and the changes in the international system brought about by decolonization. Ironically, Donnelly's recent revisions of his more basic textbook, International Human Rights, seem to respond to these shortcomings. Having used both in undergraduate courses, UHRTP is a more substantial undertaking, with a great deal more theoretical breadth and depth.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great overview for anyone interested in Human Rights August 22, 2008
I had to read this book for a graduate class and I found it very helpful and informative as a human rights "beginner." It is not so dense that it is difficult to read but it's also not a watered-down text.
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By ewaffle
This works well as an introduction to the validity of human rights, the vocabulary of practitioners and some of the founding documents, particularly, in this case, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The Holocaust, plus the forced relocation of millions and the destruction of the most basic necessities to maintain life during World War II was the impetus for the Declaration (grammatically the upper case D is correct but if Donnelly were reading it aloud you could hear it) and the subsequent treaties that amended and extended it.

An important aspect of the UDHR is that all the rights it enumerates and defines are individual and not group rights. The rights of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities are dealt with as the rights of individuals belonging to the group, not the group itself as a collective entity, since human rights are literally the rights that one has simply because on is a human being. Human rights are equal rights; all people have the same human rights as everyone else. They are inalienable; one cannot stop being human no matter how badly one behaves or how monstrously one is treated. And they are universal in that we consider all members of the species Homo sapiens as human beings and thus, automatically, holders of human rights.

Human rights can be violated, ignored or abrogated and often are with impunity for the violators. Attempting to claim a right--the right of free assembly and association, for example, can lead, in many countries to extra-judicial execution--one can simply disappear or, now that it has become a transitive verb, can be disappeared--El Salvador, Chile under Pinochet, Iraq, the Philippines, the USSR, many others.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Very difficult to follow if you do not have previous knowledge of...
The author of this book seems to want to make simple concepts as difficultly worded to sound smart or something. The book contains a lot of "fluff" in it which is unnecessary. Read more
Published 12 months ago by dru
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 years later, still refer to this book
Wonderful book used a University of Hawai`i Manoa Anthropology class Sr year in the '90s. Sparked very intelligent and deep discussion on the differences between Human Rights and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Katherine M. Elliott
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfied with product
Text was received timely and in excellent condition.
Met the expectations for an informative and comparative study. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Glenice
3.0 out of 5 stars okay quality
The barcode was cut out, along with sections of several of the last pages of the book. The book binding is ripped and the front page bent. Read more
Published on October 30, 2011 by slee12
4.0 out of 5 stars It'll work...
For me, the concepts discussed in this book are a tad bit confusing. Therefore, when I read through the book I make note of what it is I don't understand that way when I go back to... Read more
Published on March 11, 2011 by GodsGirl2011
1.0 out of 5 stars UHR
JD is an idiot and his conclusions are all flawed and conjectures meaningless. reading this book for any other reason except that it is assigned drivel nonsense would be insane. Read more
Published on November 11, 2010 by princemanjee
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