Human Rights Shapes: Diverse Spheres of Use

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 13
Words: 3536
Reading time:
13 min
Study level: College

Human’s Rights as the Attribute of Society

In contrast to the other institutions that suggest a single form of the notion existing in the given society, the area of human rights allows to switch the shapes of the very notion of human rights according to the sphere it is applied to. In spite of the fact that the core idea of the human rights remains the same, the form it takes can vary depending on the field of use. The universality of human rights allows them to get into every single part of people’s lives, and this is a subject that needs further exploration.

The way the human rights are interpreted now does not differ from the basic principles set by the founders of democracy. Throughout the centuries, the main idea of human rights remained the same, claiming every single person to have the package of rights that are to be inherent and be an integral part of living a full life of a free man. Set long time ago and representing the range of freedoms that have been proclaimed since the times of the French Revolution, these right still speak of the democracy in motion, demanding the constitutional law and the recognition of a man’s liberty. The situation has not changed much since then, the established rights for life, education, voting and freedom of speech, remain the same.

However, there have been some amendments that presupposed certain improvements, but the basics were left untouched. Nowadays, almost every country can claim that it suggests a full range of the necessary rights and freedoms to its citizens. The democracy principles spread all around the world, and the modern society seems to have all the attributes to be called democratic for recognizing people’s right and freedoms in full. However, it is still curious how the law that outlines the most important points of human rights can convey the idea, and the way this idea can switch its shape as it transgresses from one sphere of analytical and philosophical thinking into another one.

The Four Schools of Thoughts: Observing the Perspectives

Dembour (2006) defines human rights as the most obvious things that should actually be taken for granted, without clarifying them in such a detailed manner in the set of laws, “One claims a human right in the hope of ultimately creating a society in which such claims will be no longer necessary” (p. 248). The existence of the four schools of human right can explain the fact of these rights switching their shape so suddenly and with such a scale. There four schools consider human rights in absolutely different light. The ideas of different scholars may be considered from the point of view of those four schools of thought. A lot of scholars dwelling upon human rights in the relation to multiculturalism and language refered themselves to one of the Dembour’s schools.

Natural School: the Natural Course of Events

One of the most well-known schools is probably the natural school that considers human rights as they are given, in plain. Presupposing that human rights are something that one has been granted since the day of birth, the followers of this school suggest that the subject under discussion can be valued from the point of view of the plain nature. Eriksen (1996) supports this idea dwelling upon the fact that different nations can exist together on the basis of understanding this idea. Taylor (1994) also supports this idea claiming people with different understanding of human rights may respect each other and perceive them as they are.

The idea that this philosophy conveys is that a person’s rights are the incorporation of the laws of nature and it presupposes that people should act according to their inner understanding of their rights and freedoms. This theory is close to idealism, which is supported by Donelly (2003) who is sure that people have rights “simply because one is a human being” (p. 10).

Protest School: Opposing the Situation

As opposed to natural school of thought, protest school of thought believes that human rights cannot be considered as a universal notion because they are limited to such concepts as morality, dignity, and moral integrity (Dembour, 2006, p. 236). In particular, the supporters of this concept find some political and intellectual inferences related to human rights. They believe that universality of human rights fails to consider the dignity and individuality of each person. More importantly, the theory suggests that human rights impose a kind of responsibility on each individual.

If to consider human freedom as one of inherent components of human rights, one should be aware of the fact that all freedoms enjoyed by individuals should be deserved first. Indeed, a person takes all existing freedoms for granted finding it unnecessary to fight for them. They agree with the assumption that freedom is an innate right of humans (Denbour, 2006, p. 237). This position also reveals that illusionary possession of the fundamental freedoms should be protected by law.

This school of thoughts can be interpreted through visions and outlooks of Varennes (2007). In particular, his point of view is narrowed to the idea that language right should protected on equal basis with human rights because it reveals their identity and responsibility for their culture and country. Hence, Varennes (2007) states, “…the use of a language in private activities can be in breach of existing international human rights such as the rights to private and family right” (p. 117).

Drawing the line between the protest scholars, language right should be protected by law as well. Such a position explains Varennes’ affiliation to this theoretical framework. The problem of linguistic justice is also considered by Patten and Kymlicka (2003) and Wei (2009) who believe that should be linguistic justice because it is an inherent component of human rights.

Deliberative School: Agreeing Upon the Basics

As compared with natural and protest theoretical framework whose primary concerns are based on a strong belief in human rights, deliberate school of thought are fully loyal to this concept. They conceive human rights as an idealistic conception that exists regardless of human experience. According to this school, “human rights are thus no more than legal and political standards; they not moral, and certainly not religious, standards” (Dembour, 2006, p. 248). Therefore, the limited perception of human rights impels the scholars to believe that this phenomenon is nothing else but adjudication.

While analyzing different ideas and positions, Dembour (2006) concludes that deliberate theorists find human rights beyond political and legal dependence. Rather, they compare them with religion, stating that it is a universal notion existing outside the context of morality, law and politics. Due to the fact that human rights are perceived as something secular, deliberate school of thought subjects this conception to idolatry.

Following the main concepts of deliberate school, Aikman (1995) provides his own vision of linguistic diversity and cultural maintenance that should be preserved irrespective of laws and politics because it is more connected with social needs and socio-cultural environment in the country. More importantly, Boumann (1999) provides the separatist vision of linguistic rights in correlation of his position to its universality. In particular, the scholar beliefs that multiculturalism and human right should be reevaluated and be more connected with ethnic and religious identity, but not political and legal perspectives.

Although Biseth (2008) seems to be more radical in his vision of multiculturalism, the scholar also represents deliberate school of though believing that linguistic diversity is inevitable due to diversity in culture and cultural heritage. In particular, Biseth (2008) stands for equality and universality of human right with regard to linguistic right, which should be perceived as something integral and inherent to a human. In general all the above-presented scholars agree with the necessity to perceive linguistic right as something independent from politics and law.

Discourse School: When It Is the Right Time to Talk

Dwelling upon discourse school of thought and relating it to the human rights, it is possible to states that Dembour (2006) defined the scholars who belonged to this school as those who, “not only insist that there is nothing natural about human rights, they also question the fact that human rights are naturally good” (p. 251). The representatives of this school are sure that those human rights exist only because people talk about them. Moreover, Dembour (2006) believes that if the notion of human rights does not exist, so there is nothing to fight for and to protect.

Koenig and Guchteneire (2007) believe that due to high rate of migration and international communication human rights became international and there is nothing to discourse about. It is possible to refer Holmarsdottir (2009) to this school of thought as his ideas are closely connected to the ideas presented by Dembour (2006). Holmarsdottir (2009) is sure that there are no human rights which have been given to people since their birth. Only the government can give people their rights. He writes, “a government is considered as having as exclusive right to make and implement policy in the interest of all the people” (Holmarsdottir, 2009, p. 223).

All these ideas and perspectives may be easily considered from the point of view of multiculturalism and language problem in the concept of human rights.

Multiculturalism in Different Forms

It is important to remember that different cultures presuppose in some cases absolutely dissimilar norms and rules. In this case, human rights policies are not an exception. But, there is the tendency that many counties live in the multicultural society, so different norms and rules should collaborate and be combined. But, it is impossible to provide in the real society. Aikman (1995) states that many indigenous peoples struggle for the right to use their languages on their territory.

The multiculturalism has entered the society of Harakmbut Amazon people so deeply that these people have to fight for the opportunity to use their native language. It is natural that the countries with the same problems create the Declarations where the status of their country is stated as bicultural and it allows people to use their native language. Thus, indigenous peoples have created the draft of the declaration which allows them to use their traditions and culture in the multicultural society they are made to live in. The text of the draft states that peoples who are influenced by other cultures can “revitalise, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, philosophies, writing system and literature” (Aikman, 1995, p. 411).

Baumann (1999) is sure that people can never understand the main idea of multiculturalism and can still see the problem there until they do not rethink the problem. According to Baumann (1999), the multiculturalism should become global “just as environmentalism and feminism need to be global to succeed” (p. 32). Thus, human rights will be followed and there will not be a problem if the whole world is involved into multicultural society. The author also states that the problems in the society are mostly solved by the civil rights which exclude foreigners. Is not it the violation of the principles of the multiculturalism (Baumann, 1999)?

The problems in the multicultural society became extremely debatable. The appearance of different politics within the problem makes it possible to become politically neutral for most people. Thus, the politics of equal dignity is based on the principle that people on the whole Planet should be equally respected. Thus, their human rights should be respected as well. This politics creates the universal human potential. The main idea of this potential is that people should be respected, no matter what ethnical group they belong to or what language they speak. Still, the problem of the relations between people in the multicultural society remains unsolved (Taylor, 1994, p. 41).

While many people dwell upon the importance of the multiculturalism and the culture globalization, Halla (2009) states that globalization of culture has absolutely negative impact on the whole society. It is important to understand that the multiculturalism in the whole world eliminates the uniqueness of the peoples and their cultures. Halla (2009) is sure that multiculturalism reduces people from using their rights to live in the country they were born in.

It is really important for elite to maintain multiculturalism in the world society as in this case people are required to buy the western products and goods. On the one hand, the culture globalization has a positive effect (especially in education and in the right of choice). On the other hand, the problem is extremely sharp for small peoples who cannot resist cultural globalization and lose their unique qualities (Halla, 2009).

Dwelling upon multiculturalism and human rights, Eriksen (1996) uses the example of Mauritius. The religious, language and cultural diversity of this community is rather varied and difficult, still people in Mauritius are given an absolute freedom of which religion they may follow (there are four main religions on the island, three of which are subdivided into numerous sects), which subjects to study at school (most core subjects are options, so students are not obligated to learn the things they do not want or do not like due to their cultural or religious preferences), and which language they want to speak.

Even though that the main language on the island is English, the cultural languages are spoken and supported by the society (Eriksen, 1996). Thus, the main idea of the said is that multiculturalism which does not violate human rights is the multiculturalism where the peoples with different cultures live on the same territory, but there are no quarrels and problems in the cultural question.

There are a lot of different forms how multiculturalism may be considered. Still, many people understand this notion as the impact of one culture under another one when the smaller should resists. This understanding is correct as in most cases it is so. Here is one dominant culture which influences the whole society and other nationalities should submit to the requirements provided by other nations. This form of multiculturalism is wrong. People should not be submitted to somebody only because they are stronger or are considered to be more developed. Culture is not an economy or politics, this human facility should not be measured with anything. Thus, if some people have a culture, it should be protected and no one should violate the rights of others calling this multiculturalism.

Still, there is a better form of multiculturalism which is practiced on small islands all over the world. This form of multiculturalism is like a rainbow or a salad, as opposed by Eriksen (1996). The ingredients and elements are in one and the same ‘society’, they are gathered together, but they do not try to take up each other. Living on one and the same territory people do not impose their rights and cultures on others, they just learn to live together, and this is the form of the multiculturalism which should be spread worldwide, when human rights are not violated and human uniqueness is not spoiled.

Human Rights and Linguistic Diversity

Without any doubts, the idea of human rights has already touched upon numerous aspects of life: people want to know more about their rights, they want to take as many steps as possible to improve the conditions under which they have to live, and, finally, they want to understand the main idea of their rights and define possibilities. The idea of human rights and its connection to linguistic diversity seems to be a powerful aspect to evaluate the chosen theme from.

There is a certain link between language rights and human rights (Varennes, 2007). It is usually wrong to believe that only some groups of people may have their language rights because any person has his/her own language rights, and those people whose rights are violated by the government in some way have to re-evaluate their status and their possibilities. There were many attempts to advocate language rights, and one of them was supported by the political movement in the middle of the 1960s (Wei, 2000). Still, the question concerning rights remains to be open, and a variety of discussions may take place.

Nowadays, the idea of linguistic diversity is narrowed to several languages which are defined as those with some kind of future. In fact, the power of linguistic diversity is great indeed as any language is considered to be a factor that may contribute to cultural diversity that influences the development of human rights. Linguistic diversity seems to be a serious challenge for the vast majority of democratic polities because language is usually regarded as “the most fundamental tool of communication”; this is why even if the “minorities are not in themselves bearers of collective rights, the transnational legal discourse of human rights does de-legitimize strong policies of language homogenization and clearly obliges states to respect and promote linguistic diversity” (Koenig & Guchteneire, 2007, p. 10).

So, linguistic diversity is the source of controversies, which may be developed on the political background, influence considerably human rights in various contexts, and predetermine “the stability and sustainability of a wide range of political communities” (Patten & Kymlicka, 2003, p. 3). Still, this aspect has to be regulated accordingly because it has a huge impact on the development of the relations between different people.

For example, a number of politically motivated conflicts are connected with language rights which have to be established separately from other human rights. And even the increase of inequalities depends on language rights and prevents the development of appropriate society. In case language rights and other aspects which are based on linguistic diversity do not move in accordance with people’s demands and interests, there is a threat that people can make use of their own assumptions about language policies (Holmarsdottir, 2009), and these assumptions can hardly be correct. However, Biseth (2009) admits that diversity in languages as well as competence in these languages plays an important role in social development, this is why they cannot be neglected but elaborated.

People suffer from a variety of limitations which are based on human inabilities to use their own languages but the necessity to use the official language. Such restrictions lead to people’s inabilities to get appropriate education in accordance with their interests, to participate in political life of the country a person lives in, and even to ask for justice when it is really necessary. This is why another important aspect that has to be evaluated is how the chosen human rights perspective may influence the promotion of linguistic justice and diversity that is widely spread nowadays.

Some researchers say that linguistic rights have to become one of the basic types of the existed human rights. Speakers, who use a dominant language, and linguistic majorities find the existed linguistic human rights an excellent opportunity to express their ideas and their demands. Still, there are many people, the representatives of linguistic minorities, who cannot support the idea of linguistic human rights because only the smallest part of the existed languages has the official status.

It happens that some individuals undergo unfair attitude or are suppressed by the majorities because of the language they use. Taking into consideration this fact, it is possible to say that wrongly introduced linguistic human rights may negatively influence other human rights including the political representation. The outcome of such discontents and misunderstanding is as follows: people are in need of appropriate improvements and formulations which may consider cultural heritage, educational demands, and freedom of speech.

In general, the evaluation of the human rights perspective on linguistic diversity helps to comprehend that there are many weak points in the already existed system that influences and manages a human life. People are eager to create some rules, requirements, and obligations to follow a particular order and to develop appropriate relations. Still, linguistic diversity continues developing and changing human lives. And the main point is that some researchers and scientists still find this diversity an important aspect of life that cannot be changed, and some people cannot understand the importance of this diversity as it considerably restricts human rights.


In conclusion, the question of human rights is constantly discussed in the modern world. There are different opinions on the problem, some people state that human rights even do not exist as the notion (Dembour, 2006), still, most people assure that human rights exist as the duties of the society (Donnelly, 2003). Moreover, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (UN, 1993) dwells upon the very notion of human rights and the system of international human rights which relate people to the multicultural society where those rights should be followed. The problem stands sharp in the education where students, desiring to study their own languages have to learn others. Moreover, the impact of the dominant language is rather damaging on the others who exists in one society.

It is really important to remember that living in the multicultural society and trying to adopt the cultures and traditions of other dominant nations, many peoples ruin their uniqueness, they become ordinary, forgetting their roots. As the same time, the process of culture globalization leads people to the universality of human rights. This step may be significant in preventing human rights violation in the society.

Reference List

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Varennes, F. d. (2007). Language Rights as an Integral Part of Human Rights – A Legal Perspective. In M. Koenig & P. d. Guchteneire (Eds.), Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies (pp. 3-17). Aldershot: Ashgate.

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