Samuel Moyn


On his book The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History

Cover Interview of October 24, 2010

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“As moral concept, ‘human rights’ weren’t born until the 1970s.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“Human rights crystallized in the moral consciousness of people only in the 1970s, whether in Europe, Latin America, or the United States.  There were many reasons this happened.  The chief one, I suggest, is a widespread disappointment with earlier, hitherto more inspirational forms of idealism that were failing.  Human rights took their place.”

On the second:

“The burden falls on the present not to turn to the past for reassurance—but to decide for itself what to believe and in what way to change the world.  History at its best liberates, but does not construct.”