The Last Utopia: The Recent History of Human Rights, 1970-Present


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2008-2009


In the emerging historiography of human rights as an idea and as a practice, no attention has been given to the era in which human rights burst onto the public scene and became a permanent fixture of moral consciousness and political rhetoric: the 1970s. In that decade, thanks to the percolation of the ideas of dissidents, human rights exploded—not before. This study carefully examines the first decade of the usage of human rights and investigates through a series of case studies the way Westerners began to reorient themselves to the rest of the world via this new language and thanks to a new set of practices.