Human rights without cultural imperialism

Kay Mathiesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose - To discuss the problem of cultural imperialism as it relates to human rights and to provide a framework for applying human rights to Library and Information Services (LIS) so as to respect diverse worldviews. Methodology/approach - The chapter is theoretical in nature but also draws out important practical implications. The problem is described and addressed using the approach of philosophical ethics emphasizing moral pluralism. Political and moral theories are compared and lessons drawn from them for LIS practice. Findings - Drawing on the work of philosopher Jacques Maritain (1949) as well as contemporary human rights theory, an understanding of human rights as pluralistic and evolving practical principles is developed. Using Maritain's conception of human rights as a set of common principles of action, guidelines for applying human rights in ways that avoid cultural imperialism are provided. Social implications - The findings of this chapter should assist LIS professionals in understanding the relationship between human rights and cultural diversity. In addition, it gives professionals a framework for understanding and applying human rights in a ways that respects cultural diversity. Originality/value - This chapter develops an original approach to applying human rights in a way that respects cultural diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-286
Number of pages22
JournalAdvances in Librarianship
StatePublished - 2016


  • Cultural diversity
  • Cultural imperialism
  • Human rights
  • Jacques Maritain
  • John Rawls
  • Overlapping consensus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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