Controversy: Is Human Rights an Interest or a Freedom?
October 14,2014   By:CSHRS


Abstract: In human rights theories, there has been a controversy between the theory that human rights are an interest (the Interest Theory) and the one that it is a freedom (the Freedom Theory). Marx critiqued the limitations of the Western Freedom Theory of human rights from the perspective of Interest Theory. However, the critique shouldn't be taken as negation of the freedom dimension of human rights. Interest and freedom are the two internal dimensions of human rights. Human rights is accepted and interpreted by the Chinese from the philosophy of harmony innate in the Chinese traditional culture, with emphasis on balanced guarantee of freedom and interest. This is enlightening for establishing a well-balanced human rights protection system.

Key Words: human rights, interests, freedom

Regarding the essence of human rights, there is a controversy between the freedom theory and the interest theory. Such controversy reflects not only a divergence in theoretical interpretation, but also embodies difference in human rights protection strategies in real life. In human rights protection strategies based on interests, emphasis is placed on governments bestowing benefits to the people, superiority of collective benefits over individual benefits, and more attention is paid to guarantee of social, economic and cultural rights, while freedom is deemed as a means to higher objectives. On the contrary, human rights protection strategies based on freedom stress civil freedom; governments only respond to the citizens' demands, with the latter monitoring the former in exercising their commissions; individual rights is above collective benefits and more attention is paid to guarantee of civil and political rights, with freedom itself as the objective.

Theoretically, interests and freedom are the two inseverable dimensions of human rights. Seen from the practice of guaranteeing human rights, a system of human rights protection balancing freedom and interests should be established.