Humans – Rights

The political and social importance of human rights is enormous.

Half a century ago, the United Nations General Assembly agreed upon the "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations". Since then, a lot of progress has been made in the legal establishment and political implementaion of human rights. At the same time, human rights are still violated or bypassed in many countries and societies even today.

The RG Humans – Rights investigated the complex relationship of humans and rights and focused on core themes of the European and international protection of human rights from an interdisciplinary perspective.

From the detailed project description:

Human rights are one of the most promising research topics of the social sciences. In many disciplines, the literature on human rights has virtually exploded.

In law, human rights – in both their establishment in international lands and their form as fundamental rights of national and supranational constitutions – have been a focus of attention for quite some time. But even in this field, there has been a marked increase in research work. This is consistent with the increased global attention to human rights. Both in European constitutional law and in international law, complex protection systems are emerging which are confronting the study of law with a multitude of unresolved problems. This is especially true for the question of how the different layers of protection can cooperate without contradiction. There are a lot of desiderations concerning the interconnection of research between law and the social sciences.

In political science, the topic of human rights is primarily studied within the subdiscipline of international relations. Particulary from a transnational perspective, the prerequisites for a successful implementation of human rights norms in national contexts are theoretically examined and emprically studied ("boomerang/ spiral pattern"). Special attention is paid to the significance of internationally operating NGOs which campaign for an international codification of human rights as well as their national implementation.

In sociology, too, an intensive research debate about human rights has developed since the end of the Cold War. The initial starting point for this were studies on citizenship and civil rights, which often required a nation state as a reference point. The international juridification of human rights has only recently become the subject of explicit research. Works from the milieu of neo-institutionalist global societies theory have been especially influential here. While sociology increasingly addresses the global level, ethnology opens the perspective on local pluralism of human rights concepts. Discussions obtained important insights concerning the question of how the global human rights system is treated in local contexts by analysing processes of translation in terms of prerequisites and changes. Research is increasingly focused on questions of the effects of juristic decisions as well as the requirements for the protection of human rights in non-conflict situations.

From the perspective of philosophy then, the first task is to precisely grasp the concept of human rights. What exactly can and should count as a human right? Concerning this question, the research literature contrasts minimalist with maximalist concepts. Second, and connected to this, is the question of the possibility of a moral justification of human rights. In this, what sort of relationship do human rights and human dignity have? Third, one is confronted with the difficulty of putting the universal claim of human rights and the observable plurality of moral fundamental convictions into an appropriate perspective. The engagement with these and other questions has a long-standing tradition in philosophy, but especially in the last few years, political philosophy has focused increasingly on the topic of "human rights".

Despite a lot of overlaps in the factual issues, the respective approaches have been largely unconnected until now. We therefore diagnose a lot of potential for interdisciplinary work. The Research Group joins perspectives from sociology, ethnology, philosophy, political science and law. The conditions in the Junge Akademie are particularly favourable, because human rights are the research interest of several members.

The Research Group investigates the topic of human rights in three key areas. First, it addresses normative questions of the validity and justification of human rights as well as of their universal or particular range. Second, it examines actual processes of and requirements for the spreading, factual implementation and change of human rights in political and social contexts and in local law practice. And finally, it joined the different methodical approaches of the first two key areas on a meta-level and made requirements, opportunities and risks of interdisciplinary research into human rights a topic themselves.

Workshops, conference, summer school

The RG Humans – Rights organised four events, including an international conference in Venice entitled "The Philosophy of Human Rights".


Conversation in the Junge Akademie Magazin^

In issue 10 of the Junge Akademie Magazin, the researchers Tine Stein, Heiner Bielefeldt, Matthias Klatt and Matthias Koenig spoke about the dangers and opportunities of human rights. Are human rights a European construct that is incompatible with other cultures? Do human rights lose their validity if authoritarian states sign the Convention of Human Rights? Uschi Heidel and Isabell Lisberg-Haag moderated the discussion.


participating Alumnae / Alumni