Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Rights Revolution by Michael Ignatieff

The Rights Revolution (aka, the 2000 Massey Lectures) was a decent exploration of how the language of human rights (or ‘rights talk’) has had an increasing role in public and political discourse over the past several decades in Canada. Iggy examined the differing perspectives on increasing rights, the importance of increasing individual rights as well as the feelings of dispossession of the majority. He reminded us there are costs to everything (i.e., unity sacrificed for individual freedoms) and that Equality doesn’t mean treating everyone the same because rights are about respecting our differences.
Much of the content was general or hard to disagree with as I hold many similar views. Consequently, there were few moments of unique insight or impressive sophistication, but the work was still useful as the lectures are almost what one might come up with if they had a lot of time to think about such things (but, really, who has the time?)
Lecture 3, about group and individual rights, was probably the most worthwhile to me.
Check it out if you're curious.

Realizing it is hard to beat an encyclopedia (even a free one); here is a decent summary from Wikipedia:
In The Rights Revolution, Ignatieff identifies three aspects of Canada's approach to human rights that give the country its distinctive culture: 1) On moral issues, Canadian law is secular and liberal, approximating European standards more closely than American ones; 2) Canadian political culture is socially democratic, and Canadians take it for granted that citizens have the right to free health care and public assistance; 3) Canadians place a particular emphasis on group rights, expressed in Quebec's language laws and in treaty agreements that recognize collective aboriginal rights.


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