- Sociology of Human Rights by Mark Frezzo, and: The Human Rights Enterprise: Political Sociology, State Power, and Social Movements by William T. Armaline, Davita Silfen Glasberg, and Bandana Purkayastha
Sociology of Human Rights and The Human Rights Enterprise: Political Sociology, State Power, and Social Movements add a sociological voice to the human rights paradigm. They make a significant contribution by coherently communicating the plethora of analysis already conducted in this area. For scholars and students concerned with human rights, these books [End Page 303] should provide an excellent foundation for understanding the sociological perspective. The Human Rights Enterprise analyzes human rights as a terrain of struggle over power between states, private interests, and social movements. The authors set out to identify the potential contribution and utility of political sociology in understanding and interpreting human rights. In Sociology of Human Rights, on the other hand, the author explores how sociologists contribute to the understanding of human rights around the world. The book starts with the definition of human rights, classifies the different categories of human rights, and finally examines whether human rights either empower or constrain social actors.
One part of the picture the authors put forward is the notion that sociologists bring fresh perspective to the analysis of the origins, evolution, and possible human rights norms. Mark Frezzo, for example, defines concepts such as rights effects, rights claims, rights bundles, and rights conditions in great detail (pp. 4-5). Frezzo also demonstrates how the interdisciplinary study of human rights has recently seen an influx of sociologists. The author uniquely illuminates human rights as highly contested claims that vary across historical time and geographic space. Both books help to explain how global neo-liberalism and powerful non-governmental actors affect states’ ability to enforce human rights standards. In addition, practical applications using a sociological view of major debates such as globalism vs. localism and collective vs. individual rights are posited by the authors of both studies.
The authors debate and discuss questions like how political and civil rights get undermined while imposing security and surveillance regimes. For example, in the “Corporate Citizens” chapter found in The Human Rights Enterprise, the author explains how human rights should work in the United States amidst troubling challenges and threats (pp. 147-8). This cutting-edge work appeals to all interested in the nature, scope, and applicability of human rights in the twenty-first century. Rather than simply limiting the discussion to the current context, the future vision has considerable merits in assessing the human rights dimension amidst this challenging environment. As human rights become more central to the global population, works of this kind will gain prominence. Anyone interested in human rights studies will be able to appreciate the interesting perspective that these works take. [End Page 304]