Leap or loop? : a cognitive perspective on human rights and development

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Roch, Martin
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The present research embarks on a reflection on the cognitive aspects of human rights and on how it is intertwined with development cooperation. Adopting a systemic perspective, it pairs together the theory of cognitive dissonance with constructivism before arguing that playing out dissonances offers a great potential for change. An outline of development’s cyclical, empirical and diachronic pragmatism and of the human rights normative, linear and synchronic horizon is sketched out before being illustrated by the ‘mutually reinforcing’ convergence of the reform of aid and the emergence of rights-based approaches. I contend that the common learning space shared by both and structured as a network of meanings, allows for articulating systemic antagonisms. It opens up the legalism and the timeframe of human rights and it anchors development in a vision of dignity. The human rights cognitive leap refers to the capacity of human rights cognition, in conjunction with development pragmatism, to transcend respective particulars, to influence the calibration of the homeostasis and be a compass pointing towards dignity.
Second semester University: University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen.
constructivism, development, human rights, international relations, philosophy, sociology