29 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 1 (1997-1998)
Rethinking the Universality of Human Rights Law

handle is hein.journals/colhr29 and id is 9 raw text is: RETHINKING THE UNIVERSALITY OF
by Dianne Otto*
The conclusion of the Cold War brought with it reinvigorated
assertions of modern European' knowledges as universal.2 In 1991, U.S.
President George Bush heralded, with echoes of President Roosevelt's
1941 Four Freedoms vision,3 the birth of a new world order based on an
international consensus embracing the great U.S. ideal of freedom for
all.4 There has been a revival of Kantian liberalism in international
legal circles5 and an expansion of the criteria for the recognition of new
states to include, at least in Europe, liberal democratic governmental
*     Senior Lecturer in Law, The University of Melbourne, Australia; B.A., Adelaide
University (1973); LL.B Melbourne University (1992); LL.M Melbourne University (1997);
J.S.D. Candidate, Columbia University School of Law. I would like to thank Rosemary
Hunter, Wayne Morgan, and Sarah Pritchard for their thoughtful support for this project.
This Article is the third in a series of interrelated articles. The other two articles are
forthcoming as follows: Everything Is Dangerous: Some Poststructural Tools for
Rethinking the Universal Knowledge Claims of Human Rights Law, Austl. J. Hum. Rts.
(1998); Rethinking Universals: Opening Transformative Possibilities in International
Human Rights Law, Austl. Y.B. Int'l L. (1997).
1.   In using the term Europe, I do not mean the geographical entity. The term
refers to the West in the broad sense of those interests or regimes of power which benefit
from the reproduction of European knowledges and, in so doing, affirm European or
Western dominance. This term includes postcolonial elites who have embraced European
knowledges and institutions, albeit with indigenous variations, as well as the elites of the
2.    Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man 48-50 (1991)
[hereinafter Fukuyama, End of History]; see also Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social
Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995) [hereinafter Fukuyama, Trust]. Fukuyama
extends this argument to include European forms of sociality and economics.
3.    Address of the President of the United States, (Jan. 6, 1941), in 87 Cong. Rec.,
pt. 1, at 46-47 (1941), quoted in Virginia A. Leary, The Effect of Western Perspectives on
International Human Rights, in Human Rights in Africa: Cross-Cultural Perspectives 15,
19 (Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im & Francis M. Deng eds., 1990).
4.    George Bush, The Possibility of a New World Order: Unlocking the Promise of
Freedom, 57 Vital Speeches of the Day 450, 452 (1991).
5.    Ferdinand Teson, The Kantian Theory of International Law, 92 Colum. L. Rev.
53, 53-55 (1992).

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