Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power
By Clifford Bob
Princeton College Press, 2019

Human rights are typically considered defensive in nature. That’s, they’re held up by sure people and teams as a method to guard their dignity from the state or different malevolent actors. Furthermore, rights are sometimes considered as both philosophically grounded in ideas of human dignity and/or religiously endowed by a creator. Even absent a philosophical or spiritual grounding, rights are sometimes considered authorized ideas and brought as inviolate. These views of human rights deal with them as typically optimistic and utilized by oppressed teams for liberal ends. In Rights as Weapons: Devices of Battle, Instruments of Energy, Clifford Bob cuts in opposition to the hagiography of human rights, and rights typically, to concentrate on the basic political nature of rights and the way they’re usually used strategically, aggressively, and even for “intolerant ends”. In earlier books comparable to The Advertising of Revolt (2005) and The International Proper Wing and the Conflict of World Politics (2012) Bob has proven a knack for viewing widespread subjects in worldwide relations and comparative politics (e.g., rebellions, worldwide norm diffusion) from completely different views enabling a nuanced view of political phenomenon that one doesn’t at all times discover in educational research. For these causes Bob’s view of how rights work in worldwide and home politics are value grappling with.

On the outset of this evaluation, it is very important notice that Bob doesn’t painting rights as inherently intolerant however fairly the main focus of his ebook is on how a number of actors can use rights to advance agendas which can be each liberal and intolerant. In different phrases, his focus is on analyzing rights as political phenomenon, and because the subtitle of the ebook states, how they can be utilized as instruments and devices to advance political agendas. Moreover, he takes an expansive view of rights past these listed within the Common Declaration of Human Rights to incorporate property rights, group rights, and even majority rights. The ebook is organized into three sections. This primary part reveals how rights can be utilized as preparation for organized pursuits. On this case rights are used instrumentally as mobilization instruments for teams to inspire motion. Part two reveals how rights can be utilized as weapons in opposition to one’s foes. Lastly, part three describes how rights can be utilized in opposition to third events, both to get them on one’s aspect or to create a fracture in an opposition coalition. Bob concludes that there are three main methods through which rights can be utilized as weapons – to mobilize, to deploy in opposition to one’s enemies, and to counter assaults made in opposition to one’s personal claims.

Rights as mobilizers. As Bob notes rights are notably potent motivators of political motion. He lists 5 causes for this: 1) as a result of rights are perceived as pure in that they’ve deep roots, 2) rights are additionally perceived as common making use of throughout area and time, 3) rights are perceived as absolute in that they’re inviolate and may trump different political points, 4) rights are perceived as apolitical placing them above different petty political squabbles, and eventually, 5) rights are violated by one’s foes. For political activists rights are a great way to mobilize one’s aspect because the 5 causes Bob outlines above point out. The strategic worth of rights as mobilizers stems from their moral aspect. As a result of rights are typically conceived by most individuals as unalloyed items that can’t be violated when they’re violated that may function a robust motivator for political motion to rectify these wrongs. After all, with each motion there’s a response and mobilizing behind rights claims can create a counter response with its personal rights claims. Bob reveals that not solely can rights be used as mobilizers however these focused as denying rights may also use rights claims for their very own functions. He phrases this utilizing rights as shields and parries. Based on Bob rights can be utilized by the focused group to assert they’re defending conventional rights or majority rights and shielding the bulk group. They will additionally mimic their opponents and declare that it’s their rights which can be being violated by giving into calls for from their opponents. This depicts rights claims as zero-sum the place one aspect having fun with their rights is by definition taking away rights from others. One is reminded of Christian nationalists within the U.S. and different international locations claiming that permitting rights to LGBTQ people (e.g., proper to marry) is definitely a violation of their rights. Bob’s assertion that rights claims can create a counter-movement with their very own rights claims is an instance of how rights can be utilized for intolerant and even repressive ends.

Rights as Weapons. Bob identifies three broad methods rights can be utilized as weapons in opposition to one’s foes. These are – rights as camouflage, rights as spears, and rights as dynamite. Rights as camouflage is a tactic of utilizing a rights declare to masks or camouflage one other, maybe much less widespread, political goal. The thought is to make use of the apolitical impartial language of rights to advance a trigger that’s way more controversial than the rights language would recommend. The instance Bob offers within the ebook is the Catalonia area in Spain banning Bullfighting on grounds of animal cruelty (therefore an animal rights body) however this was camouflage for the Catalonia area pushing its autonomous standing in opposition to the bulk inhabitants of Spain. The following instance of utilizing rights as a weapon that Bob identifies is utilizing rights as spears. These are very direct and finely focused assault at undermining or overturning a selected coverage or regulation. The instance offered in chapter 5 is of a small atheist group in Italy making an attempt to overturn a coverage of displaying crucifixes in Italian faculties on the grounds of spiritual freedom. Lastly, when it comes to utilizing rights as a weapon, Bob identifies the final tactic which is – rights as dynamite. This tactic is when a dominant group deploys its sovereign rights or majority rights to destroy, or dynamite, a weaker minority group. That is usually performed by means of legislative or govt motion and examples offered within the ebook are the veil ban in France, the suppression of LGBTQ rights in some African international locations and the suppression of girls’s rights in Afghanistan. The thought behind utilizing rights as dynamite is that the dominant majority group claims its rights are violated by permitting sure minority teams from exercising their rights.

Rights and Third Events. Rights can’t solely be used as weapons in opposition to one’s foes, they may also be used to realize the assist of third events or to fracture an opposing coalition. Bob once more identifies two essential methods for rights ways for use in opposition to third events: rights as blockades, rights as wedges. The fundamentals of rights as a blockade is one group utilizing rights to dam one other subordinate group from having fun with rights. The thought of utilizing rights as a blockade is group A claiming there are the true rights holder and group B isn’t deserving. It is a strategy to placate the bulk or dominate group. In different phrases, the tactic of “rights for me however not for thee” as an appeasement to the dominant group. For example of this tactic in observe Bob describes the abolitionist motion in america within the 19th century and the subordination of girls’s rights in favor of emancipation of slaves and voting rights for African People. Rights as wedges are a tactic that makes use of a rights declare to both weaken an opposing group and/or stop its development preemptively. In these cases, rights are sometimes not the first political purpose however considerably used as subterfuge in service of a deeper political purpose. One instance Bob offers as proof of rights as wedges is a few supporters of Israel condemning Palestinians for his or her poor remedy of the LGBTQI neighborhood.

General, Bob’s evaluation highlights the very political nature of rights, human and in any other case. Rights can be utilized as instruments of liberation or instruments of suppression. Their Janus nature – containing each strategic and moral dimensions – makes all of them the extra helpful in 21st century world politics. Bob’s focus within the ebook is totally on the strategic nature of rights as is befitting since that’s a side of rights that maybe will get much less consideration from students and definitely of activists. Nevertheless, by de-emphasizing the moral aspect of rights Bob is considerably responsible of overstating the case. Bob is correct to notice that one cause rights work so effectively as mobilizers is due to their moral aspect. It’s simpler to mobilize folks round preventing for what they suppose is simply and common. The place a concentrate on the moral aspect of rights would assist spherical out the evaluation on what may be termed the extra “cynical” deployments of rights Bob describes in his ebook. For instance, the methods of rights as camouflage and rights as wedges Bob describes within the ebook are utilizing rights as cowl to pursue different, maybe much less widespread political agendas. This cynical deployment of rights could also be seen by audiences as simply that – cynical, thereby weakening using these political ways. Regardless of these small shortcomings Bob has offered students and activists who search higher safety and promotion of rights lots to consider together with his ebook and that’s by no means a foul factor.

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