Human Rights and the Emergence of Freedom

The fact that the notion of “human rights” emerged at a specific time and place in history seems to undermine their claim to universality. In this light, the “reason” that grounds the putative universality of rights in abstract features of the human will appears as yet another way in which Western societies pass off their own values and institutions as those of humanity in general. However, I will argue that freedom is neither a natural condition of humanity nor merely a feature of “Western civilization” but an achievement that is wrought nowhere else but in history, then human rights can be understood as decisive points of insight into the necessary conditions for freedom. This also means that the concept of “human rights” is subject to constant revision such as we find, for example, in the case of struggles for land rights in Brazil and the rights of nature in Ecuador.