East Asia: Challenges to political rights

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


One of the most prominent topics of development ethics in East Asia is about the Asian values debate on human rights. The Asian values debate has stimulated political theorists and philosophers to have further discussions on the cultural differences between the East and the West. In these East Asian challenges to human rights, people share the view that some human rights are merely “Western values”. Particularly, they argue that authoritarianism and meritocracy are East Asian values, and so political rights, such as political liberty and democratic practices, are not human rights.

This chapter begins with a summary of the Asian values debate and the philosophical arguments against political rights. Then what I call ‘a minimal account of human rights’ is introduced. This account analyzes concepts including minimal values and human dignity in detail. It also echoes ideas from Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, including their ideas on dignity, capability, and human rights, and especially Sen’s reply to the Asian values debate. The chapter concludes with an explanation of how this account can successfully answer the East Asian challenges to human rights.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Development Ethics
EditorsJay Drydyk, Lori Keleher
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781315626796
ISBN (Print)9780367629458, 9781138647909
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2018

User-Defined Keywords

  • capability
  • Confucianism
  • dignity
  • development ethics
  • East Asian cultures
  • human rights
  • minimal values
  • political rights


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