Duty-bearers for Positive Rights

19 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2014 Last revised: 8 Nov 2014

See all articles by Jeremy Waldron

Jeremy Waldron

New York University School of Law

Date Written: October 15, 2014


Claims about social and economic rights (as a kind of human right) are often criticized because they fail to specify who are the bearers of the corresponding duties. We usually say that states are the duty-bearers, but it may not be possible for a poor state to bear the burden of these rights. And anyway it may be a mistake to focus exclusively on states in an age of globalization. This paper uses some analytic ideas from the 1970s and 1980s to address this problem. Drawing on the work of Neil MacCormick and Joseph Raz, it argues that it is possible to specify a right without specifying duty-bearers; that a right is a reason to look for duty-bearers in regard to a particular interest; that there may be many duty-bearers in regard to a given right; and that who bears the duty corresponding to a given right may vary by time and circumstance.

Keywords: dutys, globalization, human rights, interest theory of rights, MacCormick, practicability, Raz, rights, social and economic rights

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Duty-bearers for Positive Rights (October 15, 2014). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-58. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2510506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2510506

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

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