Human Rights and Economics: The Conceptual Basis for Their Complementarity

19 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2008

See all articles by Dan Seymour

Dan Seymour

affiliation not provided to SSRN


Human rights theorists and economists have tended to talk past, rather than to, each other, especially in the field of development. On one level this is to be expected. Human rights theory adopts a normative, deontological approach, while economists see their discipline as a positive science and are comfortable with its consequentialism. But a closer look at the relationship suggests more complementarities. Human rights theory can help provide a normative framework that avoids some of the pitfalls of welfare theory, and can help economists deal with issues of exploitation and power relations. These complementarities have increased in importance as the development discourse incorporates legal and political issues previously considered beyond the scope of economists and development practitioners.

Suggested Citation

Seymour, Dan, Human Rights and Economics: The Conceptual Basis for Their Complementarity. Development Policy Review, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 387-405, July 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Dan Seymour (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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