Wednesday, February 26, 2020

New Book Addresses Human Rights in a Time of Populism (in other words, Our Time)

Forthcoming in  March 2020 from Cambridge University Press, is the new edited volume, Human Rights in a Time of Populism: Challenges and Responses, edited by Gerald Neumann of Harvard Law School.  Here is the publisher's description:

The electoral successes of right-wing populists since 2016 have unsettled world politics. The spread of populism poses dangers for human rights within each country, and also threatens the international system for protecting human rights. Human Rights in a Time of Populism examines causes, consequences, and responses to populism in a global context from a human rights perspective. It combines legal analysis with insights from political science, international relations, and political philosophy. Authors make practical recommendations on how the human rights challenges caused by populism should be confronted. This book, with its global scope, international human rights framing, and inclusion of leading experts, will be of great interest to human rights lawyers, political scientists, international relations scholars, actors in the human rights system, and general readers concerned by recent developments.


The book draws on a two-day conference held at Harvard Law School in 2018.  A description of the proceedings is available here.  During one segment of the 2018 event, law professor Matthew Stephenson noted the paradox that the new populist leaders who have attained power by criticizing corruption seem to maintain their popularity when they themselves are revealed to be corrupt.

He asked, “Why doesn’t this behavior alienate supporters of the populist movement more? One hypothesis is that the rhetoric of corruption wasn’t really what they were appealing to; it was more a code word for ‘Defeat cosmopolitan snobs taking your jobs.’ Another possibility is that even though voters don’t like corruption, they dislike moralists even more. Berlusconi in Italy and Trump in America are seen as living the dream. [Voters] admire the charismatic populist leader, and take attacks on the leader as attacks on them.”

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