Faculty

Mathias Risse and John W. Meyer. 2018. “Thinking About the World: Philosophy and Sociology”.Abstract
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.
Mathias Risse. 10/7/2018. “Human Rights as Membership Rights in the World Society”.Abstract

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.

Mathias Risse and Marco Meyer. 6/12/2018. The Globalized Myth of Ownership and Its Implications for Tax Competition.Abstract

Tax competition (by states) and tax evasion (by individuals or companies) unfold at a dramatic scale. An obvious adverse effect is that some states lose their tax base. Perhaps less obviously, states lose out by setting tax policy differently – often reducing taxes – due to tax competition. Is tax competition among states morally problematic? We approach this question by identifying the globalized myth of ownership. We choose this name parallel to Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel’s myth of ownership. The globalized myth is the (false) view that one can assess a country’s justifiably disposable national income simply by looking at its gross national income (or gross national income as it would be absent certain forms of tax competition). Much like its domestic counterpart, exposing that myth will have important implications across a range of domains. Here we explore specifically how tax competition in an interconnected world appears in this light, and so by drawing on the grounds-of-justice approach developed in Mathias Risse’s On Global Justice.         

Sushma Raman and Steven Livingston. 5/15/2018. “Human Rights Documentation in Limited Access Areas: The Use of Technology in War Crimes and Human Rights Abuse Investigations”.Abstract
We offer a theoretical framework for understanding the role of technological capabilities (affordances) in documenting war crimes and human rights abuses in limited access areas.  We focus on three digital affordances: geospatial, digital network, and digital forensic science.  The paper argues that by leveraging digital affordances, human rights groups gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas, or to information that has been degraded in an effort to obfuscate culpability.  We also argue that the use of digital technology invites a reassessment of what we mean when we speak of a human rights organization.  Organizational morphology in digital space is hybrid in nature, with traditional organizations also taking on or joining more virtual or solely digital forms.
Sushma Raman and Steven Livingston. 5/5/2018. “Human Rights Documentation in Limited Access Areas: The Use of Technology in War Crimes and Human Rights Abuse Investigations”.Abstract
We offer a theoretical framework for understanding the role of technological capabilities (affordances) in documenting war crimes and human rights abuses in limited access areas. We focus on three digital affordances: geospatial, digital network, and digital forensic science. The paper argues that by leveraging digital affordances, human rights groups gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas, or to information that has been degraded in an effort to obfuscate culpability. We also argue that the use of digital technology invites a reassessment of what we mean when we speak of a human rights organization. Organizational morphology in digital space is hybrid in nature, with traditional organizations also taking on or joining more virtual or solely digital forms.
Mathias Risse. 4/15/2018. Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence: An Urgently Needed Agenda. Carr Center for Human Rights. Harvard Kennedy School.Abstract
Artificial intelligence generates challenges for human rights. Inviolability of human life is the central idea behind human rights, an underlying implicit assumption being the hierarchical superiority of humankind to other forms of life meriting less protection. These basic assumptions are questioned through the anticipated arrival of entities that are not alive in familiar ways but nonetheless are sentient and intellectually and perhaps eventually morally superior to humans. To be sure, this scenario may never come to pass and in any event lies in a part of the future beyond current grasp. But it is urgent to get this matter on the agenda. Threats posed by technology to other areas of human rights are already with us. My goal here is to survey these challenges in a way that distinguishes short-, medium-term and long-term perspectives
Kathryn Sikkink. 4/1/2018. “Human Rights: Advancing the Frontier of Emancipation.” Great Transition Initiative. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Amidst bleak prognostications about the future, the human rights movement offers a beacon of hope for securing a livable world. The movement’s universality, supranationalism, and expanding emancipatory potential serve as inspiration and guide for the larger project of global transformation. The sweeping vision embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has experienced constant renewal and steadfast legitimacy in the tumultuous postwar world. It has been a foundation for the pursuit of supranational governance and an antidote to the notion that the ends justify the means. The human rights movement, despite its imperfections, has a key role to play in the transformational change in human values crucial to building a just, flourishing future.

 

Four Pillars | Universal: A Global Heritage | Supranational: The Case for Global Governance | Emancipatory: Harmonizing Means and Ends | Expansive: Climbing the Ladder of Rights | Beyond the Human Rights Movement | Endnotes

Dara Kay Cohen. 9/12/2017. “The ties that bind: How armed groups use violence to socialize fighters.” Journal of Peace Research, 54, 5. Publisher's VersionAbstract

How do armed groups use violence to create social ties? What are the conditions under which such violence takes place? In this article, I describe how armed groups use one type of atrocity, wartime rape, to create social bonds between fighters through a process of combatant socialization. As a form of stigmatizing, public, and sexualized violence, gang rape is an effective method to communicate norms of masculinity, virility, brutality, and loyalty between fighters. Drawing on literature about socialization processes, I derive a set of hypotheses about individual-level factors that may influence vulnerability to violent socialization, including age, previous socialization experiences, and physical security. I analyze the support for these hypotheses using newly available survey data from former fighters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The results show the broad applicability of considering group violence as a form of social control within armed groups, suggest some of the limits of violent socialization, and have implications for both theory and policy.

Keywords armed groupscohesionDRCpolitical violencerapesocialization

2018 Feb 12

The Fierce Urgency of Now Speaker Series: Douglas Johnson - Trump's Human Rights Policy: Waiting for the Shoe to Drop

5:30pm to 6:45pm

Location: 

Wexner 434 AB, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA

fierce urgencyThe Carr Center is excited to announce its 2018 Speaker Series: The Fierce Urgency of Now: Human Rights in 2018. The series will be facilitated by Professor...

Read more about The Fierce Urgency of Now Speaker Series: Douglas Johnson - Trump's Human Rights Policy: Waiting for the Shoe to Drop
Kathryn Sikkink. 2017. Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Pp. 336. Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work

evidenceforhopecoverEvidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guantánamo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective.

Attacks on the human rights movement’s credibility are based on the faulty premise that human rights ideas emerged in North America and Europe and were imposed on developing southern nations. Starting in the 1940s, Latin American leaders and activists were actually early advocates for the international protection of human rights. Sikkink shows that activists and scholars disagree about the efficacy of human rights because they use different yardsticks to measure progress. Comparing the present to the past, she shows that genocide and violence against civilians have declined over time, while access to healthcare and education has increased dramatically. Cognitive and news biases contribute to pervasive cynicism, but Sikkink’s investigation into past and current trends indicates that human rights is not in its twilight. Instead, this is a period of vibrant activism that has made impressive improvements in human well-being.

Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how these essential advances can be supported and sustained for decades to come.

First published in 2017.

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her books include The Justice Cascade (Norton) and Activists beyond Borders. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

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