Author Archives: Samuel Moyn

Theses on Humanitarianism and Human Rights

What follows is the rough draft of some thoughts on the topic prompted by an exciting upcoming conference at George Washington University. 1. The almost universal tendency is to conflate the two categories, and it is understandable that the minority and prophylactic response to this conflation has been to distinguish them for the sake of analytical clarity and historical propriety. Obviously, life is messy, and no set of distinctions is perfect, but it seems wiser to avoid conflation and to err on the side of Continue reading →

Human rights and the age of inequality

Some new research I am doing considers what — if anything — the explosion of human rights politics in our time has to do with our recently confirmed explosion of inequality across the same time period. An initial progress report appears in this weeks’s review section of the “Chronicle of Higher Education.” What do you think?

The first constitution to make human dignity its leading principle was…

…the Vichy constitution of 1944.   Its first article read: “The liberty and dignity of the human person are supreme values and intangible goods.”   I have recently been looking into this, on a tip from James Chappel, with help from my research assistant Rachel Craft, and advice from my honored former colleague Bob Paxton. In case it is of general interest, or anyone out there knows more, I am reporting my findings here, which I am incorporating in the final version of my historical Continue reading →

Theses on the philosophy of human rights history

[I wrote these for the exciting upcoming Princeton conference; comments welcome below.]   The “history of human rights” is not a field I personally think ought to exist. The most important fact about it, in a certain sense, is that no one ever proposed to bring it into being until the present day. As its coverage expands backwards before the near present, it normally describes some interesting but partial inquiries that have long figured and could still figure in various prior fields, from the history Continue reading →