253. "The End of Cross-Cultural Relativism," Alternatives,
Social Transformation and Humane Governance, Vol. 22, No. 2,
(April-June 1997), pp. 177-189.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIVISM(1)
Relativism is on the retreat on many fronts; much less clear is what its replacement is going to be. In the following
discussion I focus on one kind of relativism--the notion that members of one culture should not "judge" those of others,
especially that the West should not pass judgment on the policies and values of other societies. My main interest is in
asking which conception might replace the notion of unbounded normative pluralism.
1. Cross-Cultural Relativism
Relativists oppose cross-cultural judgments on the grounds that there are no overarching moral truths, and that such
judgments often reflect perceptions that one's values are superior to those of others. Relativists further argue that all
cultures have virtues of their own; and that only communities ought to be the arbitrators of the values to which their
members are held accountable.
Relativists have a point. Notions of the general superiority of Western culture were widely held in early generations. Much
of early anthropology was dedicated to convincing many, who believed that "we" were scientific and modern and "they"
were primitive, that non-Western cultures were different but not inferior.(2) Over the last two generations, many social
scientists have continued to argue against cross-cultural criticism, even when it concerns forms of behavior considered to
be extreme violations of shared values in the West. As Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban writes, "[T]hey have been unwilling to pass
judgment on such forms of culturally-based homicide as the killing of infants or the aged. Some have withheld judgment on
acts of communal violence, such as clashes between Hindus and Muslims or Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda...."(3) James Q.
Wilson observes that "The adoption of cultural relativism...made the word 'barbarian' not only pejorative but meaningless....
[Anthropologists] could discuss, dispassionately if not quite acceptingly, cannibalism and infanticide."(4)
In political science, area studies specialists took a similar position, although on different methodological grounds, mainly
objecting to universal grand theories and their cross-cultural "laws." They favored "immersion" in an area's culture rather
than importation of external truths or generalizations.
Daniel A. Bell, a communitarian, argues that one culture should not lay moral claims on another. Bell notes approvingly
that "voices in East Asia object to the very idea of human rights even as an end goal on the ground that the concept of
`human rights' is a Western invention incompatible with East Asian traditions."(5) Even the Muslim tradition of amputating
a thief's hand is beyond cross-cultural challenge, according to this view.(6) Bell does allow, though, that those who are
morally outraged by this and other such practices might be able to find intra-cultural grounds for their objections.(7) For
instance, Islam presents several conditions that must be met before one can morally justify the amputation, which in
practice are almost never met. The stress on the need to find such intra-cultural grounds is in part tactical, as it is perceived
as a more effective way to appeal to virtues across cultures;(8) but it also reflects the great reluctance to form cross-cultural
The objections to cross-cultural judgments were highlighted at a 1993 meeting of Asian leaders in Bangkok. The purpose
of the meeting was to formulate an Asian stance on human rights which would be represented at the upcoming World
Conference on Human Rights. According to one report, "What surprised many observers...was the bold opposition to
universal human rights...made on the grounds that human rights as such do not accord with 'Asian values.'"(10) Asian
intellectuals justify this opposition on the grounds that Western notions of human rights are founded on the idea of personal
autonomy, which Asian culture does not hold as a fundamental virtue, if it embraces autonomy as a virtue at all.(11)
In recent years, though, it has become increasingly agreed-upon--although far from universally--that a full-fledged
relativistic position is untenable. If pushed to the extreme, it prevents one from making any moral judgments over the acts
of others; and our moral sense strongly urges us to express our concerns about genocide, torture, rape and other such acts,
wherever they occur. Nor have other nations been reluctant to express their moral judgments about what they perceive as
the moral decay of the West.
To put it in an historical context, if one views early emphasis on cultural pluralism as a correction to the earlier Western
sense of supremacy, one now realizes that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction: Many in the West have
become too reticent to express their moral concerns when it comes to other nations. Before I can examine ideas that have
been advanced to replace abject relativism, I need to attend to one argument relativists make most often, and how one may
respond to it, to open the way to post-relativism.
2. First--Economic Development?
Among the numerous arguments in favor of cross-cultural relativism, none has carried more weight than the suggestion that
the West is already economically developed and hence can "afford" political freedoms, but other countries must defer
political development until they are economically developed. The former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew,
As prime minister of Singapore, my first task was to lift my country out of degradation that poverty, ignorance, and disease
had wrought. Since it was dire poverty that made for such low priority given to human life, all other things became
Julius Ihonvbere simply concludes that "for countries that have known no peace, stability or progress since their contact
with the forces of Western imperialism, civil and political rights have no meaning."(13)
The ethical question that is being raised, to put it starkly, is whether overcoming wanton death, plagues, and hunger trump
rights such as freedom of speech and the right to vote. The question is often treated as if it were merely rhetorical and the
answer self-evident, if only because people who are starving and ill are typically in no position to exercise their political
rights. However, this way of approaching the subject disregards the fact that the Singapores of the world show little
inclination to provide political freedoms once their citizens gain basic creature comforts. They keep "deferring" political
freedoms as they seek an ever-higher level of affluence. The GNP per capita of Singapore exceeded $12,000 in 1990.(14)
The United States passed the $12,000 mark only in 1980.(15)
Also, the people of countries that are politically under-developed are denied more than the "luxuries" of democracies, of
which freedom of speech is given as a frequent example. People in some Third World countries are often tortured, sold as
slaves, if not subjected to genocide. A strong case can hence be made that a basic respect for political human rights ought to
be as, or even more, "basic" than creature comforts.
Moreover, as Rhoda Howard points out in her book Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa, without political
development there is no assurance that the benefits of economic development will be widely shared or that economic
development will be carried out without undue suffering caused by rigid ideology or capricious thinking.(16)
The idea that economic development cannot be launched within a democratic framework in Asian countries is belied by the
economic development of India, for example. One need not deny that there is more than one pathway to economic growth;
however, these different means can be limited to those compatible with the democratic form of government.
Last but not least, some Asians point with horror to the social disorganization of the West, on the democratic polity of its
societies. Kishore Mahbubani writes about "massive social decay" in the United States and adds, "Many a society shudders
at the prospects of this happening on its shores."(17) Some Islamic intellectuals share this view. Tunisian Mohamed
Elhachmi Hamdi believes that "Western democracy appears...to be running amok. It is hard to see why lax Western mores
that weaken or destroy the family...should be exported to the rest of the world...."(18)
Actually, social order was intact in the West in, say, the early 1950s, long after the basic democratic institutions were well
established, even if some segments of the population still had to fight to ensure that they would be encompassed. And
recent social disorganization, which reflects the decline of moral values and the moral infrastructure, of families and
communities, may well be corrected within the political framework of Western societies.(19) In short, arguments that some
societies should be exempted--whether temporarily or even completely--from the claim that their people should be allowed
to gain political liberties seem indefensible. Societies may follow different pathways at different paces, but none is in
principle free from the claims of democracy.
3. Minimal Globalism
As cultural relativists found it difficult to sustain their position, some offered to recognize a thin layer of global values to
which all people and all cultures may be held accountable. Two anthropologists report:
No culture tolerates indiscriminate lying, stealing, or violence within the in-group. The essential universality of the incest
taboo is well-known. No culture places a value upon suffering as an end in itself.... We know of no culture...where the fact
of death is not ritualized.(20)
And Alison Dundes Renteln points out that all cultures limit the number of deaths that may be inflicted in what they
consider legitimate acts of revenge.(21) Other global minimalists have pointed to the existence of the same categories in
many different languages, even if they are given a rather different content. Rhoda Howard notes that even relativists agree
that "The concept of human rights is universal, but the content (what, substantively, are or ought to be rights) varies among
Global minimalists have drawn normative conclusions from such data, arguing that we can hold people of different cultures
to a set of values all cultures share because of the shared nature of these values, a kind of consensus test applied globally. A
typical statement is one made about the Golden Rule. Marcus Singer writes, "The nearly universal acceptance of the
Golden Rule and its promulgation by persons of considerable intelligence, though otherwise of different outlook, would
therefore provide some evidence for the claim that it is a fundamental ethical truth."(23) Singer's caution is very much on the
mark: Global endorsement provides only some normative justification. True, a moral ideal that all people respect has a
stronger standing than one that is affirmed only by one people or culture, or even a handful. Something, though, is still
clearly missing: If all societies, for instance, subscribe to a prejudice that in their eyes justifies treating women (or some
other group, such as immigrants or the disabled) poorly, would this make it morally justified?
Moreover, to the extent that globalists rely merely on empirical observations, their criterion for judgment is weak and not
well-grounded. The criterion is weak because it embraces only few values, such as condemning murder, theft, and rape.
When one compares these global values to the extensive body of values (and the elaborate arguments in their support)
found in many religious and secular ethical conceptions, such as the Old and New Testaments, or the works of Aristotle,
Confucius, or Immanuel Kant, the paucity of minimal globalism stands out. And even for its short list of values, the
evidence of global commitment is thin. The deliberate taking of a life--considered as offending the most global value--is
legitimated in many cultures in one way or another, such as betrayal of religion or violation of select laws (in death
sentences), even for members of one's own tribe. (Outsiders are often fair game in numerous societies.) Clearly, thin and
data-driven globalism provides some solace, but it is not a satisfactory replacement for relativism.
4. Universal Human Rights
Claims that we should recognize a set of universal human rights represent an attempt to move beyond both relativism and
minimal globalism to recognize a set of worldwide, overarching values to be respected in their own right and to serve as a
basis for forming cross-cultural normative judgments. Specifically, human-rights globalists draw on the U.N. Charter, the
U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an evolving body of international law, and the statements of various
international conferences such as those on the environment and on women. Among those who uphold this approach are
authorities such as George Weigel and Thomas Donaldson, whose lists of global values include basic civil rights and
political freedoms.(24) Rhoda Howard also adds basic economic rights.(25) Others extend the list much further.(26)
The main difficulty with this approach is that U.N. documents, international law, and various declarations--in which the
globalists find the values on which they seek to build--are not widely affirmed. This is largely the case because of the ways
in which these documents have been crafted. They typically are not reflections of a truly democratic process of international
bodies--or of the countries represented therein--nor do they reflect the result of worldwide consensus-building. Instead, for
example, the notion that all people are entitled to the same socio-economic rights often reflect the claims some Third World
countries wish to impose on the First and the Second World. Other global conceptions of human rights reflect moral claims
that relatively small powers, such as Mexico and Sweden, try to lay on the more powerful nations. Indeed, it often seems
that the resolutions of numerous international bodies are tolerated by many nations because it is known that these
resolutions have little legal, political, or normative standing.
In short, notions of global human rights do not provide a reliable exit from relativism, although they do add a source of
moral judgment across cultures, above and beyond that provided by the global minimalists.
5. Cross-societal Moral Dialogues
The weaknesses of claims for universal human rights cannot be overcome in a definitive way merely by redrafting the U.N.
Charter, or by changing the voting patterns in the General Assembly, or by other such reforms in international institutions.
Before one can expect to see global mores that command the compelling power of those that govern the inner life of well-formed societies, the citizens of the world will have to engage in worldwide moral dialogues and advance them to the point
that a significant and compelling core of shared values will emerge.
Because the notion of moral dialogue is central to my argument but is not widely recognized, it deserves some additional
elaboration here. Moral dialogues occur when a group of people engage in a process of sorting the values that will guide
their lives. For example, in the USA there is an intensive dialogue over the question of whether or not the virtue of a color-blind (non-discriminating) society or of Affirmative Action (to correct for past and current injustices) should guide
employment policies. And there is a moral dialogue over the question of whether the sanctity of unborn children or
women's right to choose should govern American abortion policy.
Built into my concept of moral dialogue are assumptions that not everyone shares-to put it mildly, assumptions that should
be stated explicitly. Moral dialogues assume that societies need shared formulations of the good, and cannot function only
on the basis of negotiated settlements of differences between individual formulations of the good. And such dialogues
assume that the processes that leads to such shared formulations entail dialogues that concern values and not merely
deliberations over empirical facts or logically derived notions.(27) They are not merely a matter of reasonable people coming
to terms, but of people of divergent convictions finding a common normative ground.(28)
Such dialogues take place constantly in well-formed societies--which most democracies are--and that they frequently result
in the affirmation of a new direction for the respective societies (albeit sometimes only after prolonged and painful
discourse). For instance, they led in the 1960s to agreement that legal segregation had to be abolished and in the 1970s that
we as a society must be much more responsible in our conduct toward the environment than we used to be. Society-wide
dialogues come in two basic forms: The piecing together of a myriad of local dialogues through organizations that have
local chapters, including numerous ethnic, religious and political associations, and--on national media such as call-in
shows, televised town meeting, and panel discussions.
But can moral dialogues take place internationally and to what effect?
Moral dialogues do occur across national lines, in international meetings, student and many other people "exchanges",
tourism, and on international media, CNN for instance. However, because they are typically much more diffuse and much
more limited in scope than intra-national ones, they are as a rule much less consequential. Nevertheless they point to
processes that, if further advanced, could provide a source for a thick global set of shared values. For example, there has
been over the last few decades a worldwide dialogue about the extent to which "we" (that is, all nations, and in a sense the
people of the world) ought to respect the environment. Of course, the dialogue is affected by numerous non-normative
considerations, such as expressions of economic interests or power considerations. However, there is no need to rehash the
debate between realpolitik and idealism to note that one factor involved is public opinion in countries other than one's own.
And it, in turn, is affected by what people consider morally appropriate. Thus, one reason most countries try to avoid being
perceived as environmentally irresponsible is that they do not wish to be considered to be acting illegitimately in the eyes of
other nations. This is reflected in a rising worldwide consensus on specific environmental matters such as limitations on
whaling, an embargo on the ivory trade, acid rain, exportation of hazardous waste, and ozone depletion.(29)
A case in point was the worldwide condemnation of the United States following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,
a rather atypical summit that built on world-wide evolving consensus (as it served to amplify it) rather than try wantonly to
assume or declare one. As a result, when the United States forced a weakening of the climate control treaty, and refused to
sign the biodiversity treaty, it drew heavy criticism from all over the world, even from traditional allies such as Germany
True, in some countries the participants in moral dialogues, are only a thin layer of intellectuals, select government
officials, some civil servants, and a few others. And in some other countries the dialogue is distorted by religious
fundamentalists (as in Iran) or hindered by limitations on cross-national communications (as in Cuba). But even in these
countries limitations on cross-national communications are increasingly ineffectual and there exists some measure of public
opinion that differs from the official line and often is closer to the worldwide one. When all is said and done, while
worldwide moral dialogues are still nascent, they are far from ineffectual and they seem to be growing in significance. It
follows that far from giving up on moral dialogues as one factor in cross-national relations, those who help to form and to
amplify them should be encouraged, and others should join in, moving toward a world that relies less on both military and
economic force, and more on dialogues about what is right and wrong.
6. Moral Voices
To help nourish global moral dialogues, one needs to move in the opposite direction from the one that cultural relativists
have followed: namely, to argue that moral voices, especially when they truly reflect the people of the society that is raising
them rather than a small elite, should be raised cross-culturally. By "moral voice" I mean laying claims in the name of a
value one affirms. It offers appreciation for those who abide by one's values (say, introducing democratic forms of
government) and censure for those who do not. Whether or not such claims are to be backed up by economic or military
sanction is a wholly separate matter, examined in extensive writings elsewhere, for instance the literature on just wars.(31)
But even if one concludes that under most circumstances such actions are not justified, this does not mean that one needs to
mute one's moral voice. Only those who believe in realpolitik imply that moral voices without backing (other than a
people's normative appreciation and censure) are without effect.
I refer to moral voices in the plural to acknowledge that we do not enter global (or local) moral dialogues with one voice;
otherwise, there would hardly be a need for a dialogue. However, the fact that initially there is a whole array of voices does
not mean that no convergence of moral claims is possible. Indeed, the lesson of the last generation--especially the last
decade--shows several such convergences. The decline in the legitimacy of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes as well as
that of Marxism are obvious examples, as is the rise in the respect for the ideal of free politics and free economies.
It is necessary to raise moral voices across societal lines, to further advance the development of a thick core of globally
shared values. To call on all people to respect the same set of core values does not entail arguing that all have to follow the
same path of economic development, pray to the same gods, or have the same aesthetic values. At issue are core values
such as respecting the human dignity of all, according basic political freedoms to citizens, seeking to provide for basic
creature comforts, and refraining from violating other nations. It is here that communitarianism, which entails respecting
local values, and universalism can be joined. Community values should prevail on all matters not covered by the
universally shared core values, an approach the United States followed domestically to good effect.
Indeed, it is counterproductive for international bodies to pass resolutions on one issue after another, condemning this and
that, and demanding this and that, as each participant adds their normative wish list to the pile of cross-national moral
claims. The long road to worldwide shared values will be shortened somewhat if the focus were limited to a set of core
To raise cross-cultural moral voices entails respecting the right of others to lay moral claims on one's society just as one
claims the right to lay claims on others. Thus, the West should realize that it is well within its legitimate, world-community-building role when it criticizes China for its violation of human rights. And China should be viewed as equally
legitimate when it criticizes the American society for its neglect of filial duties. To reiterate, as long as moral claims are
laid as moral claims, rather than as justification for coercive measures, they help to prime the needed moral dialogues.
To form cross-cultural judgments requires an appeal to shared global values, in the sense that these values lay a claim on all
and are not particular to any one society. Thus, as I see it, individual rights do not reflect a Western value (even if
historically they arose in the West) but rather a global value that lays claims on all people. Far from being deterred or
chastened by the fact that the Chinese government, or some Asian intellectuals, protest when the West applies this value to
Asian cultures and regimes, I see--in their defensive protests--evidence that such claims generate a recognition of the
validity of the values evoked.(32) And for the same reason, I find several Asian criticisms of the West, for example, its
disrespect of the elderly, fully legitimate and compelling.
Cross-cultural moral claims are effective because they resonate with values we share but have neglected, not because they
introduce arbitrary claims out of thin air. This fact stands out when one compares claims to treat all individuals with dignity
to some other more spurious claims. For instance, if one were to chastise Asians for using little sticks instead of forks,
rather than for violations of individual rights, they would hardly be perturbed. Similarly, Asians make telling points when
they criticize the West about its neglect of social order. Compare the effect of such claims to a call by Muslims on the West
to embrace their divorce laws. Nobody would respond in a guilty furor, but people would ignore such normative appeals or
laugh them out of court. Not all cross-cultural moral claims elicit a response, and it is rather evident which do. These reflect
the evolving worldwide moral code.
Global moral dialogues are best perceived not as dialogues between given cultures--East Asia and the West, for instance--as has been implied by the suggestion that we should aim at a "fusion" of these cultures.(33) Such
an approach treats values
as culturally bound, and hence rejects, at least implicitly, the concept that values are either justifiable or should be ignored,
disregarding their historical origin or cultural base. The approach also implies that the values of these geographic areas are
monolithic, which is hardly the case. The treatment of political freedoms, for instance, by Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan
are hardly the same. Most important, such an approach avoids exactly the kind of differentiation a worldwide dialogue
should be seeking: Which "Western" values or "Asian" ones we should endeavor to encompass in the cross-national set of
virtues? Surely we do not seek to combine the materialism of the West with the authoritarianism of Singapore, but instead
to combine individual rights with a commitment to provide for socio-economic well-being of the population. We do not
seek to "fuse" MTV with opiates, but a free press with strong commitments to care for members of our communities.
There are other signs, aside from defensive reactions, that the cross-national moral voices do not fall on deaf ears. For
example, after having ignored human rights issues for years, it has recently been reported that in Asian countries, "human
rights were no longer dismissed as a tool of foreign oppression but were promoted as a means of asserting Asian
distinctiveness...."(34) China seems to have reformed some of its most grievous orphanages and labor camps under pressure
from Amnesty International and other "foreign" moral voices. And one hears now, even in countries such as Cambodia and
Myanmar, voices that oppose authoritarian rule in the name of human rights and democracy that come from within rather
than from Western critics. Thus, an opposition leader recently argued in Cambodia that "no human being should be asked
to choose between bread and freedom."(35)
Recognizing the need to raise moral voices globally does not mean that one legitimates berating other people cross-culturally, any more than it is wise or productive to berate other members of one's own community. The moral voice is
most compelling when it is firm but not screeching; judging but not judgmental; critical if need be, but not self-righteous.
One can also acknowledge quite readily that those who champion global values themselves do not always heed their own
call, but this observation does not invalidate the standing of one's values as long as there is solid evidence that one truly
endeavors to abide by these values and, at best, is making progress in doing so. Americans thus can both admit that race
relations in America are not all they ought to be and, that we have made great progress in this area over the last sixty years.
And one might recognize that there are universal values other than those for which a given party speaks, values which those
societies that are being chastised on other grounds follow quite admirably, for which they may even provide a shining
example. Thus, one can recognize that Japan's treatment of minorities and women leaves much to be desired, while
respecting their aesthetic values.
One may wonder if, when one lays moral claims, one should make allowances for the particular circumstances of a
given society? Can we expect as much from a country under siege, for instance, as we can from one that has experienced a
long period of international and domestic tranquility? The evolving world community should judge each case on its merits.
Thus, the world community hardly condemned Britain when it suspended some long-established political freedoms when
Nazi Germany threatened to invade the island, especially because Britain was quick to restore these protections when the
war turned in its favor. The opposite holds for rather affluent developing countries that keep deferring even elementary
political freedoms in the name of overcoming the poverty of their people. But, while many specific judgments might be
difficult and contested, in principle there is no particular challenge here; taking into account circumstances is integral to
forming moral judgments by most bodies of ethics.
One might also ask, how is one to rule when two or more evolving universal moral values clash? This is exactly the
business of ethics, which rarely deals in clashes between right and wrong but rather focuses on the combination of two
goods or rights. There are numerous procedures that apply, including ranking (e.g., under most circumstances the right to
free speech is ranked higher than the right to privacy); appeal to a super-ordinating value (e.g., we call on both sides to
yield for the sake of peace); and moral dialogues in which we try to find out which value should take precedence, or a way
to avoid the clash of the values at issue.
None of the preceding observations about moral voices suggests that bringing strong substantive values to nascent
worldwide moral dialogues is to be denied. On the contrary, they are all matters that concern ways to best advance such
dialogues. At the same time, there is no reason to ignore the fact that so far, the "global village" is far from a village, and
that cross-national dialogues have not yet advanced sufficiently to provide for a reliable and broad-based world-wide moral
(not to mention legal) code. The growing recognition of the legitimacy of such moral dialogues, and the global moral
consensus they seek to evolve, is the best way out of abject relativism.
1. I am indebted to Frank Lovett, for research assistance on this article. The comments of David E. Carney on a previous
draft were particularly helpful. Amitai Etzioni, The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society
(New York: Basic Books, forthcoming)
2. Some of the anthropologists central in promoting this view were Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and
Melville Herskovits: see Philip Selznick, The Moral Commonwealth (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1992), 92-93.
3. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, "Cultural Relativism and Universal Rights," The Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 June 1995,
4. James Q. Wilson, "Liberalism, Modernism, and the Good Life," in Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence,
Character, and Citizenship in American Society, eds. Mary Ann Glendon and David Blankenhorn (Lanham, MD: Madison,
5. Daniel A. Bell, The East Asian Challenge to Human Rights (n.p.: 1995), 9.
6. See Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, "Toward a Cross-Cultural Approach to Defining International Standards of Human
Rights: The Meaning of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," in Human Rights in Cross-Cultural
Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus, ed. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
7. Daniel A. Bell, "Democracy and Community: A Zero-Sum Game?" Tocqueville Review, forthcoming.
8. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law
(Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990).
9. Communitarians have been taken to task for avoiding issues of cross-cultural values, especially for neglecting universal
human rights. See Russell Hardin, One for All: The Logic of Groups Conflict (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1995); and Gideon Sjoberg, "The Human Rights Challenge to Communitarians: Formal Organizations and Race and
Ethnicity," in Macro Socio-Economics: From Theory to Activism, ed. David Sciulli (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1996).
10. Joanne Bauer, "Three Years After the Bangkok Declaration: Reflections on the State of Asia-West Dialogue on Human
Rights," Human Rights Dialogue 4 (March 1996): 1.
11. See Joseph Chan, "The Task for Asians: To Discover Their Own Political Morality for Human Rights," Human Rights
Dialogue 4 (March 1996): 5; see also Joseph Chan, "The Asian Challenge to Universal Human Rights: A Philosophical
Appraisal," in Human Rights and International Relations in the Asia-Pacific Region, ed. James T.H. Tang (New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1995).
12. Erik Kuhonta, "On Social and Economic Rights," Human Rights Dialogue 2 (September 1995): 3.
13. Julius Ihonvbere, "Underdevelopment and Human Rights Violations in Africa," in Emerging Human Rights: The Africa
Political Economy Context, eds. George W. Shepherd and Mark Anikpo (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 57.
14. 1993 Britannica Book of the Year (Encyclopedia Britannica: 1993), 796.
15. George Thomas Kurian, Datapedia of the United States 1790-2000 (Lanham, MD: Bernan Press, 1994), 90.
16. Rhoda E. Howard, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1986).
17. Kishore Mahbubani, "The Dangers of Decadence," Foreign Affairs 72, no.4 (September/October 1993): 14.
18. Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi, "The Limits of the Western Model," The Journal of Democracy 7, no. 2 (April 1996): 82.
19. Amitai Etzioni, The Spirit of Community: the Reinvention of American Society (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993).
20. A.L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (New York: Vintage Books,
1963), 349; see also Kroeber and Kluckohn, "Culture," in Choice and Action: An Introduction to Ethics, ed. Charles L.
Reid (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1981), 60.
21. Alison Dundes Renteln, International Human Rights: Universalism versus Relativism (Newbury Park: Sage
Publications, 1990), 88ff.
22. Rhoda E. Howard, Human Rights and the Search for Community (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), 54.
23. Marcus Singer, as quoted by James Gaffney, "The Golden Rule: Abuses and Uses," America 155 (20 September 1986):
24. George Weigel, "Are Human Rights Still Universal?" Commentary 99, no. 2 (February 1995): 43-44; Thomas
Donaldson, The Ethics of International Business (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
25. Howard, Search for Community, 165ff.
26. See, for example, Our Creative Diversity: Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development ([Paris]:
27. For a justification of this point, see Etzioni, Golden Rule.
28. Amy Gutmann, "The Challenge of Multiculturalism in Political Ethics," Philosophy and Political Affairs 22, no. 3
(summer 1993): 197ff.
29. Gareth Porter and Janet Welsh Brown, Global Environmental Politics (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 69-105.
30. Steven Greenhouse, "Ecology, the Economy and Bush," New York Times, 14 June 1992.
31. See, for example, Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations, (New York:
32. Some commentators have argued that even within the Asian culture, there is more than enough support for human
rights conceptions: see Stephen B. Young, "Human Rights Questions in Southeast Asian Culture: Problems for American
Response," in The Politics of Human Rights, ed. Paula R. Newberg (New York: New York University Press, 1980).
33. Kishore Mabhubani, "The Pacific Way," Foreign Affairs 74, no. 1 (January/February 1995): 100ff.
34. Joanne Bauer, "International Human Rights and Asian Commitment," Human Rights Dialogue 3 (December 1995): 1.
35. "Who Speaks for the People?" The Economist,
17 January 1996, 31.