Cultural relativism and human rights: the debate over labour standards and ‘Asian values’
The topic of this chapter is controversial. It deals with perhaps the most sensitive question facing the challenge of formulating and implementing rules and standards for the emerging global market. The chapter begins by acknowledging that the most serious obstacle to the evolution of universally recognized labour standards is the lack of trust in a multicultural world. Thus, in non-Western cultures these standards are seen as the latest form of Western imperialism, hiding under the cloak of universal and indivisible human rights. The most strident proponents of this challenge to universally recognized labour
standards come from Asia where it is alleged that ‘Asian values’ are antithetical to universal conceptions of human rights, including those concerning the rights of labour. The chapter will explore whether democracy, labour standards and human rights are notions based on Western values and are incompatible with ‘Asian values’, after examining alternative views and perspectives of what these are.