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What Rawls Hath Wrought

(Original article by John Gray)

"Human rights provide “a moral alternative to bankrupt political utopias”—a replacement for the universal political projects that shaped much of the dark history of the twentieth century. The human-rights movement shared the vision that fueled utopian politics—not just the anticapitalist politics of old-fashioned Communist parties, but also internationalist and anticolonialist movements, liberation theology and vain attempts to forge “socialism with a human face.” Communist rule proved to be unprecedentedly tyrannical, postcolonial regimes were sometimes as repressive as their predecessors and even heroic dissidents against totalitarian rule (such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) were not always the liberals that Western supporters imagined them to be. Real-world politics never delivered the utopian dream, so human-rights activists insulated themselves from these disillusioning facts by assuming a moral stance that affected to transcend politics. Not having to make the painful choices and shabby compromises that always go with active political engagement, they could enjoy an uplifting sense of moral purity along with the comforting conviction that if anything went wrong, it was not their fault..."

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