A Novel Sensibility

Inventing Human Rights
A History
Lynn Hunt
W. W. Norton, $25.95, 320 pp.

We hold these truths to be self-evident,” begins the most famous document in American history. But, asks Lynn Hunt, if these truths are so self-evident, why did they require a declaration? In fact, the ideas that inspired Americans to rebellion-especially the idea that all people are endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights-have never been treated as all that obvious. To take the most obvious example, the current government of the...

The remainder of this article is only available to paid subscribers.

Print subscribers to Commonweal are entitled to free access to all premium online content. Click here to purchase a print subscription, or if you’re already a print subscriber, register now for premium access.

Online-only subscriptions provide access to all premium online articles for just $34/year or $2.95/month. Click here to subscribe.

Registered users, please log in below:

Or log in with...


About the Author

Alan Wolfe is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, and the author of Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (Knopf).