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Introduction: Human Rights and Jurisprudence (with Lung-Chu Chen), 9 Hofstra Law Review 337 (1981)


Like the men of fable who observed the elephant differently from different vantage points, scholars who write about human rights commonly, and sometimes most inaccurately, observe mere fragments of a total context. Some critics of recent developments in the international law of human rights can, thus, see only an Hobbesian-global community process in which reified, isolated nation-states are the principal, if not the sole, actors and interactors. The enormous and accelerating increase, since Westphalia in 1648, in the intensity of interaction of individual human beings, through multiple and diverse associations, private as well as governmental, with a near total compression of time and space in a continuing universalization of science and technology, escapes their attention. From their walled-state perspectives, they are able to perceive neither the rising, common demands of peoples about the globe for a greater production and wider sharing of all values nor the inescapable interdetermination and interdependence of all peoples in securing demanded values. Hence, noting only a fantasied tail of an imaginary elephant, these critics are able to come to the astonishing conclusions that how one state treats its citizens has no important impact upon the citizens of other states and that there is no shared, common interest among the peoples of the world in promoting and securing human rights.

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