Westernization, modernization, development, and underdevelopment - the dominant contemporary social and economic forces - have in fact severed the individual from the small, supportive community. Economic, social, and cultural intrusions into, and disruptions of, the traditional community have removed the support and protection which would “justify” or “compensate for” the absence of individual human rights. These intrusions have created a largely isolated individual who is forced to go it alone against social, economic, and political forces that far too often appear to be aggressive and oppressive. Society, which once protected his dignity and provided him with an important place in the world, now appears, in the form of the modern state, the modern economy, and the modern city, as an alien power that assaults his dignity and that of his family.
In such circumstances, human rights appear as the natural response to changing conditions, a logical and necessary evolution of the means for realizing human dignity. The individual needs the protection of individual rights, barring the implausible, and generally undesired, reemergence of the traditional order. And given the power of modern institutions and the demonstrated inclinations of the individuals and groups that control them, not just any type of individual rights will do, but only rights with the moral force and range of universal human rights. In Marxist terms, the bourgeois economic revolution brings with it the bourgeois political revolution and bourgeois rights; capitalism and industrialization bring in their wake natural or human rights, which represent a major advance in the protection of human dignity in such circumstances.
- Jack Donnelly in Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critique of Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights, The American Political Science Review 76 (2), 1982, p. 312.