May 14, 2011

Book review of the day: Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International

Kenneth Anderson writes:
This anthropological approach to AI works in large part because, as Hopgood notes, AI is a kind of secular religion with a distinctive culture all its own. It has a body of quasireligious beliefs, a mission and a mandate that would seem largely familiar, in attitude at least, to the long line of British moral and religious reformers of the previous two centuries.
AI has struggled with the fundamental question of how far should a supposedly universal, mandatory, essentially Kantian categorical agenda, extend in a world characterized by tradeoffs, resource constraints, plural and conflicting values, and different conceptions of the good. 
Hopgood shows the ways in which AI has largely given up trying to keep the idea of a body of universal human rights – applicable in all circumstances categorically – separate from distributive prescriptions for society.

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