Preamble section 1:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,


  1. Where Do Human Rights Come From
  2. Religion
  3. Natural Law
  4. Natural Rights
  5. Legal Positivism
  6. Marxism/Socialism
  7. Controversy
  8. References


A political ideology to which individual rights are basic is sometimes contrasted with socialism. According to Karl Marx, in an industrialized bourgeois society, the worker is inherently and inevitable exploited and alienated and individual rights are an illusion and a deception. Individualism, and its reflection in claims to individual rights, are obstacles to be overcomes on the road to Communism. In the historically inevitable Communist society of the future, after the state has withered away, individualism will have been eliminated, and it will be meaningless to speak of individual rights. All members of the society will find themselves free and fulfilled in community (Henkin, Age of Rights, 167).

Today, socialist societies exist in socialist states, although perhaps, in theory and in principle, they see themselves as on the road to a pure, stateless socialist society. Theories of socialism, even if called Marxism, have, however, had to relate to actual socialist states in an international system which, whatever the inexorable laws of historical necessity, immediately reflects the iron law of national interest and power, of international politics and economics. Contemporary socialist states, with socialist theory far behind, have had to respond to the rise and the appeal of the idea of human rights (Henkin, Age of Rights, 189).

Although contemporary Communist ideology has adopted the language of rights and has moved towards the human rights consensus, it has not yet accepted and assimilated some basic implications of the idea. It does not take seriously enough the separateness of the individual; it sometimes forgets that its own raison d'etre is the enrichment of individual life. In that ideology the individual has begun to count, but he does not yet count enough, and the recognized zone of individual autonomy and freedom remains too small and uncertain (Henkin, Age of Rights, 190).

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Peter Danchin, Columbia University