Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Human Rights for Pragmatists: Social Power in Modern Times

WZB Talk by Jack Lewis Snyder - Hybrid Event

Mainstream human rights activists typically attribute the signature successes of their movement—anti-slavery, Gandhi, Martin Luther King—to their uncompromisingly principled stance on behalf of the weak and the exploited. “Naming and shaming” and “ending impunity” loom large in their lore. This attitude works well to recruit idealistic activists, but their moralism, legalism, and secular universalism miss the central role of the self-interest of the majority in powering the progress of human rights. A core of idealists defined aspirational goals, but progress depended on support from majority mass movements and reform parties that gained power through expedient compromise.

The human rights enterprise is now facing fierce pushback from illiberal strongmen and populists who counter-shame the liberal order as decadent, degenerate, and threatening to deeply rooted values. Too often contemporary rights rhetoric plays into the hands of these illiberal critics. “Human Rights for Pragmatists” explains how rights-based societies can recover a more accurate narrative of their past pragmatic successes, repair their tactical flaws, and withstand illiberal challenges.

Jack Lewis Snyder is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia.


Please note that this event takes place in English only with no translation.

The event is part of the WZB Talks series.

The WZB will record this event, which is carried out in person and via Zoom. The audio recording will be separated from the video recording and published on the WZB website (https://www.wzb.eu/de/node/66702) in order to present the talk to an interested public. The video recordings are deleted after editing and are not passed on to third parties. If you participate in the event with spoken contributions, this information as well as the name you provided will be published. If you want to participate in the discussion without your contributions being published, you can use the chat function to submit questions.

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The venue is wheelchair accessible. Please let Friederike Theilen-Kosch (friederike.theilen-kosch [at] wzb.eu) know if you need special assistance.