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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 51, December 11, 2010

End of Human Rights in Post-Modern Era

Sunday 12 December 2010, by Sunita Samal


Though in the wake of 9/11 and attack on Iraq there is a shift from deconstruction towards politics, deconstruction is of great assistance to post-human cultural studies when it comes to analysing its relationship with politics. Cultural studies have tended to place human rights in a transcendental position with respect to all other discourses. Human rights cannot flourish without interaction of the civil society with the constitutive outside in a particular order.

It is through rhetoric that a difference between “us” and “them” has been established. Things happen not because they are grounded and complete, but because they are not. A Kantian tradition emphasises the impersonal character of morality and stresses that reason has to be universally appropriate if it is to be moral. But in the view of Korsgaard, until we settle the domain over which law universalises, the requirement of universality does not yield any particular content. Further, universal requirement cannot bridge the gap between private reason and public reason. So universality cannot solve the problem of culture and power. However, universalism in human rights cannot rest without recourse to the question of otherness.

THE modernist ethics of responsibility to act and the post-modernist ethics of responsibility to otherness may contribute to one another. So the aesthetic sense of post-modernism can enrich social theory by making otherness central to the current debate concerning culture and politics. A democratic regime, while fostering pluralism, cannot equate all values, since its very existence as a political form of values precludes total pluralism. But a political regime is always a case of undecidable decided and this is why it cannot exist without the constitutive outside.

The central and most urgent political paradox of our time is communication. The relationship between technological mediation and social relations needs to be addressed in the context of post-human politics. There is separation of knowledge from experiences. There cannot be a directed unmediated contact between individual with reality. Too much social and cultural practice necessarily directs them beyond the humans. Post-humanities come into being with the recognition of culture that does not begin and end with “we”. Technology can no longer be separated from everyday life; its influence is so powerful, its integration is so seamless, that it no longer makes sense to think ourselves as human beings. The obsession with extreme culture to explore the possibility of seeing beyond its surface can no more distinguish the human from its objects and human beings see it in a deceptive form which brings about an end to human rights. It encounters its own limit. It ushers in a form of society beyond the end of civil society.

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