Human Rights and their Limits shows that the concept of human rights has developed in waves: each call for rights served the purpose of social groups that tried to stop further proliferation of rights once their own goals were reached. While defending the universality of human rights as norms of behavior, Osiatynski admits that the philosophy on human rights does not need to be universal. Instead he suggests that the enjoyment of social rights should be contingent upon the recipient's contribution to society. He calls for a 'soft universalism' that will not impose rights on others but will share the experience of freedom and help the victims of violations. Although a state of unlimited democracy threatens rights, the excess of rights can limit resources indispensable for democracy. This book argues that, although rights are a prerequisite of freedom, they should be balanced with other values that are indispensable for social harmony and personal happiness.
Wiktor Osiatynski is a professor at the Central European University, where he teaches at the CEU Legal Program in Budapest. He is a former co-director of the Center for the Study of Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe at the Chicago Law School and an advisor to a number of constitutional committees of Poland's parliament. The author of more than twenty books, Osiatynski is a member of the board of the Open Society Institute Budapest and of the board of the OSI Justice Initiative as well as of a Human Rights and Governance Grant Program at the OSI. In 2007, he cofounded the Women's Party in Poland.
1. A short history of human rights; 2. Rights and democracy; 3. Rights and needs; 4. Rights and cultures; 5. Human rights and other values.