From a scholarly activist, a solid and encouraging piece of research on the status of human rights around the world.




A scholarly rebuttal to those who are pessimistic about the progress of human rights.

In her latest book, Sikkink (Human Rights Policy/Harvard Kennedy School of Government; The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics, 2011, etc.) responds to attacks on the legitimacy and effectiveness of human rights law, institutions, and movements. She argues that different conclusions arise concerning human rights progress when comparisons are made to an ideal and when they are made through systematic empirical research, her preferred method. This is a dense, data-driven, and academic text, and the author encourages readers to skip around and select the chapters that interest them most. Those more interested in the practical aspects of making human rights work in the 21st century may wish to forgo the arguments about measurement and focus on the policy recommendations for the future. Sikkink acknowledges that some human rights issues have been worsening—especially related to the refugee crisis, immigration, and economic inequality—but she documents and charts areas of improvement: ratification of human rights treaties, women’s rights, education, and the decline in infant mortality, genocide, use of the death penalty, and battle deaths. For policy-oriented readers, the author proposes six approaches that have been proven effective: seek nonviolent solutions to conflict, promote democracy, guard against dehumanizing practices, ratify and enforce human rights treaties, support accountability that can deter future crimes, and expand mobilization on behalf of human rights. In her conclusion, Sikkink asserts that because human rights tactics are mainly deliberative and nonviolent, change comes slowly and only as a result of concerted struggles. Through her research, she effectively demonstrates what has been done in the past, giving doubters and pessimists reason to hope about what can be done in the future.

From a scholarly activist, a solid and encouraging piece of research on the status of human rights around the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17062-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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