Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power
By Clifford Bob
Princeton University Press, 2019
Human rights are typically thought of as defensive in nature. That is, they’re held up by sure people and teams as a method to guard their dignity from the state or different malevolent actors. Moreover, rights are sometimes considered as both philosophically grounded in rules of human dignity and/or religiously endowed by a creator. Even absent a philosophical or spiritual grounding, rights are sometimes regarded as authorized ideas and brought as inviolate. These views of human rights deal with them as typically constructive and utilized by oppressed teams for liberal ends. In Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power, Clifford Bob cuts in opposition to the hagiography of human rights, and rights usually, to deal with the elemental political nature of rights and the way they’re usually used strategically, aggressively, and even for “illiberal ends”. In earlier books such as The Marketing of Rebellion (2005) and The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics (2012) Bob has proven a knack for viewing frequent subjects in worldwide relations and comparative politics (e.g., rebellions, worldwide norm diffusion) from totally different views enabling a nuanced view of political phenomenon that one doesn’t at all times discover in tutorial research. For these causes Bob’s view of how rights work in worldwide and home politics are price grappling with.
At the outset of this assessment, you will need to observe that Bob doesn’t painting rights as inherently intolerant however fairly the main focus of his e-book is on how a number of actors can use rights to advance agendas which might be each liberal and intolerant. In different phrases, his focus is on analyzing rights as political phenomenon, and as the subtitle of the e-book states, how they can be utilized as instruments and devices to advance political agendas. Furthermore, he takes an expansive view of rights past these listed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to incorporate property rights, group rights, and even majority rights. The e-book is organized into three sections. This first part exhibits how rights can be utilized as preparation for organized pursuits. In this case rights are used instrumentally as mobilization instruments for teams to inspire motion. Section two exhibits how rights can be utilized as weapons in opposition to one’s foes. Finally, part three describes how rights can be utilized in opposition to third events, both to get them on one’s aspect or to create a fracture in an opposition coalition. Bob concludes that there are three main methods during which rights can be utilized as weapons – to mobilize, to deploy in opposition to one’s enemies, and to counter assaults made in opposition to one’s personal claims.
Rights as mobilizers. As Bob notes rights are significantly potent motivators of political motion. He lists 5 causes for this: 1) as a result of rights are perceived as pure in that they’ve deep roots, 2) rights are additionally perceived as common making use of throughout house and time, 3) rights are perceived as absolute in that they’re inviolate and may trump different political points, 4) rights are perceived as apolitical placing them above different petty political squabbles, and eventually, 5) rights are violated by one’s foes. For political activists rights are a great way to mobilize one’s aspect as the 5 causes Bob outlines above point out. The strategic worth of rights as mobilizers stems from their moral aspect. Because rights are typically conceived by most individuals as unalloyed items that can’t be violated when they’re violated that may serve as a robust motivator for political motion to rectify these wrongs. Of course, with each motion there’s a response and mobilizing behind rights claims can create a counter response with its personal rights claims. Bob exhibits that not solely can rights be used as mobilizers however these focused as denying rights also can use rights claims for their very own functions. He phrases this utilizing rights as shields and parries. According to Bob rights can be utilized by the focused group to say they’re defending conventional rights or majority rights and shielding the bulk group. They also can mimic their opponents and declare that it’s their rights which might be being violated by giving into calls for from their opponents. This depicts rights claims as zero-sum the place one aspect having fun with their rights is by definition taking away rights from others. One is reminded of Christian nationalists within the U.S. and different international locations claiming that permitting rights to LGBTQ people (e.g., proper to marry) is definitely a violation of their rights. Bob’s assertion that rights claims can create a counter-movement with their very own rights claims is an instance of how rights can be utilized for intolerant and even repressive ends.
Rights as Weapons. Bob identifies three broad methods rights can be utilized as weapons in opposition to one’s foes. Those are – rights as camouflage, rights as spears, and rights as dynamite. Rights as camouflage is a tactic of utilizing a rights declare to masks or camouflage one other, maybe much less standard, political goal. The concept is to make use of the apolitical impartial language of rights to advance a trigger that’s rather more controversial than the rights language would recommend. The instance Bob supplies within the e-book is the Catalonia area in Spain banning Bullfighting on grounds of animal cruelty (therefore an animal rights body) however this was camouflage for the Catalonia area pushing its autonomous standing in opposition to the bulk inhabitants of Spain. The subsequent instance of utilizing rights as a weapon that Bob identifies is utilizing rights as spears. These are very direct and finely focused assault at undermining or overturning a selected coverage or regulation. The instance offered in chapter 5 is of a small atheist group in Italy making an attempt to overturn a coverage of displaying crucifixes in Italian colleges on the grounds of spiritual freedom. Finally, in phrases of utilizing rights as a weapon, Bob identifies the final tactic which is – rights as dynamite. This tactic is when a dominant group deploys its sovereign rights or majority rights to destroy, or dynamite, a weaker minority group. This is commonly achieved by legislative or govt motion and examples offered within the e-book are the veil ban in France, the suppression of LGBTQ rights in some African international locations and the suppression of girls’s rights in Afghanistan. The concept behind utilizing rights as dynamite is that the dominant majority group claims its rights are violated by permitting sure minority teams from exercising their rights.
Rights and Third Parties. Rights can not solely be used as weapons in opposition to one’s foes, they can be used to achieve the assist of third events or to fracture an opposing coalition. Bob once more identifies two foremost methods for rights ways for use in opposition to third events: rights as blockades, rights as wedges. The fundamentals of rights as a blockade is one group utilizing rights to dam one other subordinate group from having fun with rights. The concept of utilizing rights as a blockade is group A claiming there are the true rights holder and group B is just not deserving. This is a strategy to placate the bulk or dominate group. In different phrases, the tactic of “rights for me but not for thee” as an appeasement to the dominant group. As an instance of this tactic in observe Bob describes the abolitionist motion within the United States within the 19th century and the subordination of girls’s rights in favor of emancipation of slaves and voting rights for African Americans. Rights as wedges are a tactic that makes use of a rights declare to both weaken an opposing group and/or forestall its progress preemptively. In these cases, rights are sometimes not the first political purpose however considerably used as subterfuge in service of a deeper political purpose. One instance Bob supplies as proof of rights as wedges is a few supporters of Israel condemning Palestinians for his or her poor remedy of the LGBTQI neighborhood.
Overall, Bob’s evaluation highlights the very political nature of rights, human and in any other case. Rights can be utilized as instruments of liberation or instruments of suppression. Their Janus nature – containing each strategic and moral dimensions – makes all of them the extra helpful in 21st century international politics. Bob’s focus within the e-book is totally on the strategic nature of rights as is befitting since that’s a side of rights that maybe will get much less consideration from students and positively of activists. However, by de-emphasizing the moral aspect of rights Bob is considerably responsible of overstating the case. Bob is correct to notice that one cause rights work so effectively as mobilizers is as a result of of their moral aspect. It is less complicated to mobilize individuals round combating for what they assume is simply and common. Where a deal with the moral aspect of rights would assist spherical out the evaluation on what could be termed the extra “cynical” deployments of rights Bob describes in his e-book. For instance, the methods of rights as camouflage and rights as wedges Bob describes within the e-book are utilizing rights as cowl to pursue different, maybe much less standard political agendas. This cynical deployment of rights could also be seen by audiences as simply that – cynical, thereby weakening the use of these political ways. Despite these small shortcomings Bob has offered students and activists who search better safety and promotion of rights so much to consider together with his e-book and that’s by no means a nasty factor.