Donnelly's essay reconstructs the scholarly discourse on human rights that began with the initial mid-1970s "innovative and controversial" approach of linking human rights to foreign policy. Landmark books such as David Forsythe's Human Rights and World Politics and Henry Shue's Basic Rights helped make human rights issues mainstream scholarship. Donnelly addresses three themes that have dominated human rights discourse in the past two decades: Where does human rights fit within the realm of international relations? To what degree is the status of economic, social, and cultural rights intrinsic to human rights? Can the argument of cultural relativism be used as a legitimate defense for a country's human rights agenda? Discrediting the belief that free markets ensure economic, social, and cultural rights in the post-Cold War era, Donnelly criticizes international human rights resolutions for not bearing enough weight on actual implementation and enforcement. What is needed, he argues, is less emphasis on the theoretical framework and more emphasis on comparative works that examine the empirical impact of U.S. international human rights policies and the human rights policies of other countries.
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