Engaged Buddhism as Human Rights Ethos: the Constructivist Quest for Cosmopolitanism

  • Alison BryskEmail author


As the fundamental authority of universal rights claims are contested in a declining liberal international order, constructivists seek to transcend the limits of the Western, rationalist rights ethos and explore humanistic spiritual alternatives. This essay will evaluate the promise of a leading non-Western cosmopolitan ethos: engaged Buddhism. Buddhism offers a vision of universal compassion and moral responsibility that has shaped influential global advocacy efforts, with the potential to address a significant sector of the world community. But the Buddhist ethos has functioned as both a source of and a challenge to state power and nationalist identity in an era of globalization. Through examining a range of contemporary movements of engaged Buddhism in Tibet, Burma, Thailand, and Taiwan, we will see how this form of religious cosmopolitanism can play a role in constructing a rights ethos—if and when it maintains critical autonomy and Buddhist spiritual detachment from worldly power.


Human rights Engaged Buddhism Cosmopolitanism Tibet Burma Thailand Taiwan 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global StudiesUniversity of California Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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