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Making the Sociology of Human Rights More Sociological

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Woodiwiss, Anthony

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Institute for Social Development and Policy Research, Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University
Development and Society, Vol.40 No.1, pp. 117-138
Sociology of human rightsLawGood and Evil
This paper is an exercise in reflexive theoretical sociology which marks a shift in my approach to the sociology of human rights. It begins by critically examining my past practice in the light of the general criticisms of the sociology of law recently set out by Mariana Valverde. My conclusion is that, while Valverde's particular criticisms, as mediated through Christopher Tomlins' discussion of my work, have little force, the radical nature of her challenge has the considerable merit of forcing the recognition and clarification of other very significant problems with my work, notably the absence of a distinctively sociological conception of rights. Having filled this gap, the paper goes on to provide a formal analytical description of the scope of the sociology of human rights. What is distinctive about this description is the fact that it recognizes that sociology should be as concerned with the causes of abuse as with the legal and other responses to abuse. The paper ends by suggesting that such an approach should greatly enhance the value-added provided by sociology to the study of human rights since it promises to provide a means of investigating the causes of human rights abuses that looks beyond the guilt or innocence of individual perpetrators of abuse.
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