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Cover International Human Rights Law

3. Critiques  

Marie-Bénédicte Dembour

This chapter reviews six critiques of human rights, deriving from realist, utilitarian, Marxist, particularist (cultural relativist), feminist, and post-colonial theoretical perspectives. The first three critiques emerged in reaction to the (successive) French Declarations of the Rights of Man of the late eighteenth century; the last three were fully developed in reaction to the International Bill of Rights enacted after the Second World War. Each of these critiques reveals a gap between what human rights claim to be or achieve, on the one hand, and what human rights are or do in practice, on the other.