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Cultural Foundations and Mythological Nature of Human Rights

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The author claims that the concept of human rights arose on European soil as a result of certain cultural, political, and economic factors. Its primary base is formed by Christian ideas, secularized with the dissolution of feudalism and the spread of capitalism. In particular, this concept synthesized the Christian ideas of God’s likeness of man and the omnipresence of God: being god-like, man, like God, may be present in all things, though not in all at once. The main beneficiary was the bourgeoisie, who used personal rights to destroy feudal institutions, political rights to establish control over the state, and economic and social rights to mitigate class contradictions and distract their opponents. The religious origin of rights is the key to understanding their important features such as the absence of logical basis for human rights; helplessness of the law in front of acts that undermine the foundations of order and are marked as acts of self-realization; extraordinary diversity of rights, etc. There are several directions of human rights criticism (conservative, moderateliberal, Marxist and Christian). All of them assume that human rights neither adequately reflect human nature, nor take into account some of its aspects. Indeed, man is not only an individual seeking to choose, but also a member of a collective who needs a recognition (conservatism); a being alienated from labor and racial life (Marxism); a believer seeking to avoid sin (early Christianity) and obedient to divine will (Islam); a being who suffers from constant suffering and seeks to be saved from it (Buddhism); a victim of civilization, oppressed by the flow of information and the need for constant choice This inadequacy entails a destructive effect: the concept of rights creates a monochrome picture, on which, the human existence is reduced to act of will; gives rise to logical contradictions; destroys reality, monopolizing the axiological basis of cooperation; is used as a tool of submission and domination; creates an absolute justa causa; alienates from existence and forms the basis for other levels of the mythological structure. The history of human rights is not complete: It seems that today humanity is on the eve of fundamental transformations, whose content and final result are difficult to predict.

About the Author

Vladislav Tolstykh
Moscow State Institute of International Relations
Russian Federation
Professor, Department of International Law, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (76 Vernadskogo Av., Moscow, 119454)


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For citation:

Tolstykh V. Cultural Foundations and Mythological Nature of Human Rights. Russian Law Journal. 2020;8(2):104-119.

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ISSN 2309-8678 (Print)
ISSN 2312-3605 (Online)