MultiRights Seminar : “The true history of human rights matters most of all” (Moyn) - a new gospel for human rights history?
Kjersti Brathagen (Centre for Contemporary History, Institute of Archeology, Conservation and History, UiO) presents a review of Samuel Moyn's "The Last Utopia Human Rights in History".
Samuel Moyn’s book The Last Utopia is a refreshing and, as the author intended, provocative read. Sorely needed, the book calls for an approach to human rights history that does not take human rights as gospel, literally speaking. Moyn attacks what he calls the ‘church history’ of human rights historians, in particular those writing in and about the USA. According to him, they have been more like activists in their writings than distanced researchers. In itself, that is a refreshing and laudable position, and perhaps not all that provocative. However, Moyn then turns to introduce a new dogma for how to write “the true history of human rights” (Prologue). This review will look at how Moyn attempts to do this, where he might succeed and/or fail in the eyes of another historian working in the field of human rights history. The underlying argument will be that Moyn, like everyone else, manages to write one of many histories of human rights, not the one nor the true one.
Find a draft of the book review here.