The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Vulnerability and Human Rights

Vulnerability and Human Rights

By Bryan S. Turner
  • Publish Date: 8/11/2006
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
  • Page Count: 160 pages
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02923-8
  • Series Name: Essays on Human Rights

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“Bryan Turner’s Vulnerability and Human Rights is a concise but wide-ranging discussion of cutting-edge themes in sociology, seen through the prism and oriented toward the realization of the human rights paradigm. Avoiding foundationalist fallacies, it seeks to establish a grounding for the idea of human rights in our unavoidable vulnerability. The book will make a major contribution to the growing contemporary discussion in the field.”
“Professor Turner’s work stands as a genuine contribution to an area of human rights analysis much written about but little felt as a problem for individuals—in microscopic no less than macroscopic dimensions. He examines how the process of life-taking is the perverse reverse of life-giving. It thus merits thoughtful reading and analysis by those for whom such weighty matters still form part of the sociological vocabulary.”

The mass violence of the twentieth century’s two world wars—followed more recently by decentralized and privatized warfare, manifested in terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and other localized forms of killing—has led to a heightened awareness of human beings’ vulnerability and the precarious nature of the institutions they create to protect themselves from violence and exploitation. This vulnerability, something humans share amid the diversity of cultural beliefs and values that mark their differences, provides solid ground on which to construct a framework of human rights.

Bryan Turner undertakes this task here, developing a sociology of rights from a sociology of the human body. His blending of empirical research with normative analysis constitutes an important step forward for the discipline of sociology. Like anthropology, sociology has traditionally eschewed the study of justice as beyond the limits of a discipline that pays homage to cultural relativism and the “value neutrality” of positivistic science. Turner’s expanded approach accordingly involves a truly interdisciplinary dialogue with the literature of economics, law, medicine, philosophy, political science, and religion.

Bryan S. Turner is Director of the Committee for the Study of Religion and Presidential Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as Director of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies and Professor of Social and Political Thought at the University of Western Sydney. Among his many publications are the Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, and The Sage Handbook of Sociology.



1.    Crimes Against Humanity
2.    Vulnerability and Suffering
3.    Cultural Rights and Critical Recognition Theory
4.    Reproductive and Sexual Rights
5.    Rights of Impairment and Disability
6.    Rights of the Body
7.    Old and New Xenophobia


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