The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy serves as the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in the human rights domain. The center embraces a dual mission: to educate students and the next generation of leaders from around the world in human rights policy and practice; and to convene and provide policy-relevant knowledge to international organizations, governments, policymakers, and businesses.
Over the past months, momentous developments point to a more intense engagement with the needs and rights of refugee and other migration-affected children than has previously been evident. As with #Me too, many of the most central claims – the pervasive presence of abuse, the scale of the problem, the striking power imbalances that have perpetuated the problem’s relative invisibility – are not new or surprising per se. It is the avalanche of evidence, the mobilization of affected constituencies, and the sobering realization of the extent and consequences of previous denial that are disquieting.
In recent decades the world has grown together in ways in which it had never before. This integration is linked to a greatly expanded public and collective awareness of global integration and interdependence. Academics across the social sciences and humanities have reacted to the expanded realities and perceptions, trying to make sense of the world within the confines of their disciplines. In sociology, since the 1970s, notions of the world as a society have become more and more prominent. John Meyer, among others, has put forward, theoretically and empirically, a general world-society approach. In philosophy, much more recently, Mathias Risse has proposed the grounds-of-justice approach. Although one is social-scientific and the other philosophical, Meyer’s world society approach and Risse’s grounds-of-justice approach have much in common. This essay brings these two approaches into one conversation.
Notes:For Academic Citation: Mathias Risse and John W. Meyer. Thinking About the World: Philosophy and Sociology. CCDP 2018-005, July 2018.
The idea of human rights has come a long way. Even hard-nosed international-relations realists should recognize that the idea has become so widely accepted that nowadays it arguably has an impact. Many countries have made human rights goals part of their foreign policy. International civil society is populated by well-funded and outspoken human rights organizations. We have recently witnessed the creation of an entirely new institution, the International Criminal Court, as well as the acceptance, at the UN level, of guiding principles to formulate human rights obligations of businesses. Around the world, more and more local concerns are formulated in the language of human rights, a phenomenon known as the vernacularization, or localization, of human rights. Ordinary people increasingly express concerns in terms of human rights rather than a language that earlier might have come more natural to them. They are not just helping themselves to a legal and political machinery. They also make clear that they are articulating concerns others have in similar ways where they live.
“The Carr Center is building a bridge between ideas on human rights and the practice on the ground. Right now we are at a critical juncture. The pace of technological change and the rise of authoritarian governments are both examples of serious challenges to the flourishing of individual rights. It’s crucial that Harvard and the Kennedy School continue to be a major influence in keeping human rights ideals alive. The Carr Center is a focal point for this important task.”
- Mathias Risse