October 26, 2009
2009 Berkley Center Lectures with Hans Joas: Violence and the Origins of Human Rights
Current debates about human rights obscure their origins in the experience of violence. The affirmation of the universal value of human dignity is not only part of the history of ideas, but it also links back to violent and traumatic collective experiences such as slavery and the Holocaust. In this first Berkley Center lecture, Hans Joas traced the history of violence in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other important documents, and discussed the conditions for the successful transformation of experiences of violence into universalist value commitments. The abolition of slavery served as an illustration.
Hans Joas is a leading social theorist and professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, where he also belongs to the Committee on Social Thought, and at the University of Erfurt, Germany, where he directs the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies. Joas has made many seminal contributions to the history and development of social theory and our understanding of pragmatism, democracy, religion, violence, and human values. Among his major books are The Creativity of Action (1996), The Genesis of Values (2000), War and Modernity (2003), Do We Need Religion? (2004), and Social Theory (with W. Knoebl) (2009). The recipient of many awards and fellowships, Joas serves as Vice-President of the International Sociological Association.