Political Anthropology: International Human Rights Non-Universalism

Introduction: Political Anthropology

symbol of law in political interactions
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The foundation of political anthropology is investigating the politicization of human life. This includes the study of how diverse cultures operate and interact with each other. Thus, we need to understand that politics has the power to obligate human society through laws. This starts with political theories that create the ideology behind different identities, which shape international relations. This means the dominant ideology has the power to control the world order. Even though the world order is globalized, which means nations are interdependent, international organizations serve the interests of powerful governments that shape the dominant ideology. 

Role of Politics in Hard Laws vs. Soft Laws

On the one hand, political anthropology cites soft law to have the most power and influence to dictate the culture of the communities we live in, utilizing human compliance. For instance, norms that create diverse perspectives in the human population are a type of soft law. Accordingly, individuals tend to avoid questioning the naturalness of the norms that shape their society.

On the other hand, the enforcement of hard laws through political institutions. This occurs when norms become legally binding through constitutions for individual communities and treaties for international organizations. Nevertheless, international law often lacks legal power for enforcement on sovereign nations. Thus, treaties under international organizations like the Universal Declaration of human rights under the United Nations face more significant non-compliance. This is especially true in the issue of the extent of human rights norms universality. 

Introduction: International Human Rights

ineffectiveness of international human rights
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From the perspective of political anthropology, are the human rights promoted by international organizations genuinely universal? Unfortunately, even in a globalized world, no matter how much international organizations promote their human rights values as universal, there is no universal norm in the international community. Correspondingly, these same organizations deepen the gap between the global south and Western nations instead of promoting diplomatic equality. This creates a double standard in the international community. In addition, IOs allocate immense support to nations attempting to democratize. Despite either ignoring or fighting nations that oppose the democratic and capitalistic global system. For example, they are promoting human rights protection by prosecuting governments that violate them. However, IOs ignore the fact that is punishing governments create even more poverty for innocent citizens. For instance, if the United Nations were more cooperative with North Korea and authoritarian African countries, famine would decrease worldwide. 

Example of International Human Rights Norms

One type of human right promoted by major IOs is socio-economic rights. The case of these rights in the international system shows both the Eurocentrism of international organizations and ignorance towards cultural relativism. Notwithstanding, democracies emphasize individual rights and are careful about attaching themselves to protecting socio-economic rights. Therefore, human rights promoted by international organizations frame the modern European identity. On the other hand, communist regimes have a socialist-based human rights norm that promotes equality. These differences imply that no one entity can be dominated by international human rights for those norms to be classified as universal.

Causes of Human Rights Non-Universality: Eurocentrism in World Politics

example of eurocenterism
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Political anthropology defines Eurocentrism as allowing the Western nations to be hegemons, viewing Western nations as the best and upholding democracy and capitalism as the better systems in both economics and politics without questioning them. Additionally, the human population is ignorant of the control of the eurocentric world order in their cultures. Thus, Eurocentersim represents any nation against western ideology as a helpless state. Consequently, there is no other system that can flourish in the world order.

Example of Eurocentrism Promoted by the International Community

For example, the world order was bipolar in the Cold War. This was when there were two world powers, which were the socialist Soviet Union and the Democratic United States. However, the world order became unipolar after the Cold War. This is where the only world power is the so-called leader of the free world, the United States. This has caused American culture to spread all over the planet.

To illustrate, in a world dictated by American hegemony, we have Eurocentric justification from the West to control Middle Eastern assets. The foundation that allows for Eurocentric influence is the education system, which is a tool that ensures Western hegemony in the world. For instance, a general history education would paint a picture of evil and greedy Middle Easterners monopolizing valuable resources like oil. At the same time, the civilized and poor westerners are denied their essential resources to survive. Consequently, to secure oil supply, the United States ensured that oil would always be valued in dollars. Thus, it is vital to unveil the truths of history as the human race is deceived by Eurocentric education and books. Therefore, to obtain further power and infinite resources for the West, the United States government’s careless actions are the destabilizing force in the Middle East. 

Consequences of Eurocentric Human Rights

As established previously, the double standard created by Eurocentrism benefits the global north, mainly Western nations. In contrast, IOs backed by the West are harming the worldwide south because of never-ending instability and poverty. Consequently, for decades, international organizations have been Eurocentric. They are allowed to mess with any nation that opposes the hegemonic system. Thus, effectively ignoring social and economic context on the ground. Consequently, an example of an adverse impact on a nation due to ignorance of international organizations is how the IMF wrecked the economic stability of Jamaica. This is an example of how international organizations force converts developing countries to become capitalistic. This results in the IMF driving out local business, which creates poverty. This eventuality shows how the current system of international organizations is not working. This is because the increase in poverty can increase conflict, lack of education, and nutrition. 

Role of Eurocentrism in International Human Rights

First, Eurocentrism is embedded in the values of international organizations, especially in relation to human rights. Thus, IOs advocate human rights, like freedom of expression, including speech, originating in western democracies. However, IOs ignore the fact that unlimited freedom of expression creates tensions within society. For example, an illustration of freedom of speech in protest can lead to a revolution that destabilizes a whole nation. Also, freedom of speech allows the manifestation of hate speech that leads to hate crimes, usually from the dominant group against various minorities.

Second, Western nations commit human rights violations themselves as they do not accept all human rights promoted by IOs. Nevertheless, Western nations are still hegemons that police other states’ human rights violations. A horrific example of this hypocrisy is how prisoners of war have their human rights violated by the West. To illustrate, there was sexual abuse committed by the guards against the inmates in Abu Ghraib. This event shows how the American government themselves violate the human rights of their prisoners of war. Yet, international organizations identify Western violators as exemplary human rights protectors and guardians of democracy. 

Causes of Human Rights Non-Universality: Cultural Relativism in International Relations  

Diversity in human population
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In anthropology, cultural relativism refers to the vast variety of perspectives rooted in the diversity of cultures in the human population. Thus, it is essential to understand that, due to international organizations promoting human rights with a Eurocentric value, those same IOs ignore cultural relativism. Thus, there is a lack of effective enforcement of the complete universal declaration of human rights because of cultural relativism. This is because the diverse cultures in this world accept different sets of human rights. For instance, in a state of emergency or when a country is still developing, there needs to be an authoritarian figure to keep the government moving forward, which makes democracy ineffective.  Furthermore, compliance does not indicate universality. However, the effectiveness of international human rights norms in the domestic sphere is what defines universality.

Cultural Relativism ignored by International Organizations

Furthermore, as previously established, in today’s world order, the Western is hegemonic. If there is a change, the connection will also change. For instance, if China becomes the hegemon, then international human rights values might emphasize cultural relativism. It is also important to note how eastern countries like China and Russia respect cultural relativism. For example, standing against IOs like the United Nations intervening in sovereign nations without the consent of the reigning government. For example, the Russians were against the military intervention of the United States in Iraq in 2003. This is because the United States claimed to bring human rights at the root of democratization to Iraq, which is a violation of the political culture at the time in Iraq.

Moreover, in the international system, human rights are strongly defined by radical universalism. Even more than that, it is clearly proven that cultural relativism and universalism cannot coexist in their radical form. This idea explains why the Westernization of human rights values that force traditional societies to think of human rights as necessary is ineffective in limiting human rights violations in third-world countries. For example, global cultures view Middle Eastern culture as backward because it hasn’t changed much from its traditional form. On the other hand, European culture is seen as the most civilized because it has constantly changed based on the innovations of the time period. 

Role of Cultural Relativism in International Human Rights Non-compliance

The second example is that African scholars prioritize culture and demand it be considered in human rights. Additionally, cultural relativism remains a critical aspect of why international human rights are not universal. Consequently, anti-colonialism is the reason why Africans are opposed to human rights. This is because Africans see human rights promoted by international organizations as having emerged from among their past and present Western-dominated colonizers. In addition, the West ignores the diversity within the enormous contentment of Africa. This is because westerns categorize the population of the whole continent of Africa as one. This is significant because human rights norms aligned with one nation’s culture can have a high chance of being abnormal in another nation. 

The third example is where domestic recognition impacts the effective human rights promoted by an international organization. Human rights come from domestic norms, and the bottom-up model is ineffective in making human rights universal. This model is where the citizens of the nation-state make the decisions on the norms. This eventuality infers that international organizations do not have the capability to enforce human rights without domestic recognition of human rights. Nevertheless, to gain the true universality of human rights norms, these soft laws should be in the up-to-bottom model. This model entails that the government is the one that decides the norms of the nation-state. 

Conclusion: Strategies Towards Human Rights Norms Universalism

unverisal decleation of human rights
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As previously established, one of the human rights factors is free trade under open markets, which hinders the universality of international human rights values. Thus, I am suggesting that international organizations reform for the international community to come closer to truly universal human rights norms. The purpose is to accept that there are many ways for a state to achieve economic and political prosperity. Therefore, international organizations should be open to helping nations, no matter the differences. For example, suppose a country is economically stable without fully open free trade. In that case, international organizations should still cooperate with them without trying to convert that state into a capitalistic democracy. 

Therefore, I am proposing the addition of clauses against human rights violations, especially in economic treaties. This is significant because all countries care about economic entities. Thus, this will ensure that nations will actively start protecting human rights. This will also widen the range of international organizations that have a say in human rights. For instance, increasing compliance through a diverse range of perspectives in various regional and global international organizations. In the end, a country’s economic status depends on its population’s human rights status. 

Next Step in Political Anthropology 

Finally, in political anthropology, human rights are a stakeholder in many things. For example, human rights violations can increase with foreign military aid. In addition, some foreign humanitarian aid like health, food, and education aid is given to promote human rights. Thus, I will be dictating an article on foreign aid under political anthropology. Another example is a political ideology that shapes societies. On the one hand, liberalism is the ideology of Western nations. It is the birthplace of theories of democracy and capitalism and their enforcement in reality. On the other hand, realism is the ideology of Eastern nations. This is where Eastern Realists gave rise to theories of socialism, communism, and Authoritarianism. Thus, I will be writing another article on the differences between the culture in a collective and individualistic society. 

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