domenica 27 novembre 2011

Anthropology and Human Rights

by Federico Sollazzo (

The existence of one basic anthropological constitution is not incompatible with the phenomenon, now more than ever visible, of the cultural pluralism (in front of which the ethical pluralism appears to be nothing more than a degeneration); but how reconcile the existence of one essential anthropological constitution with the presence of the cultural pluralism? There is, in other words, an universal ethical substratum that acts as a bridge between these two poles?
If we want prevent the merely commercial exploitation of the diversity and avoid the clash of cultures that occurs when diversity feeds fear and rejection, we must to assign a positive value to [...] influences and [...] meetings, helping each of us to broaden own experience, thus making us more creative in our culture [...] (for this) cosmopolitanism, understood realistically, means [...] to accept others as different and equal. This will reveal at the same time the falsity of the alternative between different hierarchies and universal equality. And so are exceeded two positions, the racism and the apodictic universalism (A. Touraine, it. tr. 2002, p. 197, my en. tr., and after my brackets, U. Beck, it. tr. 2005, p. 82, my en. tr.)

Is thus evident that the irreducibility of one person to another, of one culture to another, does not involves the impossibility of the comparison, on the contrary, it would be possible thanks to a sort of "universalism of difference" and "disjunctive synthesis", in which the irreducibilty of a singularity to another is the trait d'union among themselves; this can all be done on the ground of a universal Ethics, anthropologically founded.

The civilized world can not be other than the global coalition of cultures, each of which preserves its originality differences do not identify with being, but they always distinguish him. And only thus the differences produce the phenomenon of becoming of life [...] Only in this way, only saying this passage, we can do detonate the device of metaphysics, that is one with the device of power: the idea of One as unit of differences (C. Lévi-Strauss, it. tr. 1967, p. 139, my en. tr., and, G. Marramao, 2003, p. 215, my en. tr.) 

But how these arguments can find concrete application in today's society? 
The justice (which in a theoretical perspective can be defined "justness") is certainly the central question around which revolves the Ethics, we could say that the justice represents the "engine" of the Ethics, to answer to which the Ethics borns; therefore cultures can be considered as different solutions to the same question.
In order to implement the justice, has given rise to its institutionalization: the right, within which human rights are placed, therefore, although they occur in institutionalized forms, also arise from an ethical question. In this scenario, politics can be the "filter" through which happens the transition from the dimension of ethical values to that of practical and institutional forms, that are infrastructures needed to gain and maintain power, which in turn is the primary tool for the realization/institutionalization of values. Thus, the development of conceptual and practical status of the "Justness", Justice, Law and Human Rights, stands as one of the primary and essential tasks that every human association must meet, without ever having to exhaust the claim because, although the clarification of these questions is essential because it offers a peaceful human coexistence (since those concepts are universal and legitimate custodians of human needs, arising from the basic anthropological constitution), should not be forgotten how their specific definition is constantly precarious, because "historically" determined.
Now, with this reasoning, it is perhaps worth repeating, I don’t want to deny the existence of universal human needs (on the contrary, they exist and are anthropologically based), but, I would like to say that through these universal needs, arise specials arrangements: the Human Rights, "the protection of these rights [...] means the fulfillment of basic needs" (G. Harrison, it. tr. 2001, p. 165, my en. tr.), and the protection which should manifest itself today is no more through their simple development and/or review (processes, these, already widely available), but through their application, indeed

The basic problem relating to Human Rights today is not so much to justify them, but rather to protect them. It is not a philosophical problem, but political: it is not important to know which and how these rights are, what’s their nature and their principles, whether are natural or historical rights, absolute or relative, but what is the way to ensure them, to prevent that, despite the solemn declarations are continually violated (N. Bobbio, 2006, p. 16, my en. tr.)

So, if is true that today the crucial issue of Human Rights is not their philosophical foundation, but their political application, is equally true that this question currently occurs in a different way than in the Twentieth century, in which the violation of Human Rights was tied hand in glove with the category of citizenship and the phenomenon of Statelessness (as Hannah Arendt has amply shown). Indeed, binding Human Rights to the category of citizenship, they are to coincide with the rights bestowed by the State, as civil rights (that care the existence of each citizen), social rights (that care the existence of ethnic and cultural groups and minorities) and political rights (that care the freedom of action for individuals and groups), so they seems to belong to a State and not to men, now instead, Human Rights are unrelated at the membership to a State, allowing them to be recognized without a national citizenship as well (in the name of what, increasingly, global citizenship is called, like if without an official-burocratic status of citizen could not be granted rights), in other words, they are considered today, rights "to humans without further specification, without borders or boundaries, without more social definitions" (A. Touraine, it. tr. 1993, p. 376, my en. tr.). But then, if is not the category of deprivation of citizenship (with the related phenomenon of Statelessness) the carrier through which is perpetrate the violation of Human Rights today, it remains to think that the reason of this breach is the lack of understanding that

There is a relationship between Human Rights and human needs [...] (that) The idea of "basic needs" is built around this: on the other side of their satisfaction there is suffering […] "have a right" means, first, that there is an aspect of the human being that must somehow be respected and protected in the conduct of social and political life (J. Galtung, it. tr. 1998, p. 290, my en. tr., and after my brackets, F. Viola, 2000, p. 97, my en. tr.)

In conclusion, the purpose of this short paper was not only the intent to draw the reader's attention on the most urgent ethical and political issues, which require a pre-clarification for to reach their solution, but rather the desire to frame these issues through a particular perspective, that is the essential anthropological structure, which has in its very elementary and simplicity, its universality, and that needs of context in context (and even of man in man), to find specific forms of application.

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-) U. Beck, Lo sguardo cosmopolita, Carocci, Roma 2005.

-) N. Bobbio, L’età dei diritti, Einaudi, Torino 2006.
-) J. Galtung, Lo stato nazionale e la cittadinanza: e la cittadinanza globale?, in AA. VV., Educare alla pace, Esperia, Milano 1998.
-) G. Harrison, I fondamenti antropologici dei diritti umani, Meltemi, Roma 2001.
-) C. Lévi-Strauss, Razza e Storia e altri studi di antropologia, Einaudi, Torino 1967.
-) G. Marramao, Passaggio a Occidente, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2003.
-) A. Touraine, Critica della modernità, il Saggiatore, Milano 1993.
-) A. Touraine, Libertà, uguaglianza, diversità, il Saggiatore, Milano 2002.
-) F. Viola, Il carattere morale della pratica sociale dei diritti, in Etica e metaetica dei diritti umani, Giappichelli, Torino 2000.

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