On the Human Rights Question

Forthcoming in Human Rights Quarterly (2018)

29 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2017 Last revised: 9 Nov 2017

See all articles by Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell

University of London, School of Oriental & African Studies - School of Law

Date Written: November 5, 2017

Abstract

There is a marked disjuncture today between the generalised critique and rejection of human rights by many progressive and critical commentators, and the embrace of the language of human rights by a variety of movements around the world engaged in struggles for social change. This divide between critical theory and critical practice raises important questions about whether and how movements for fundamental social change should engage with human rights. In contrast to a number of well-established critical dismissals of rights, this article argues, from within the Marxist tradition, that human rights can, and in some cases should, be deployed by social movements in their campaigns. However, reaching this conclusion requires developing an understanding of human rights that gives primacy to social struggle and to a nuanced understanding of the contradictory nature of human rights.

Keywords: human rights, critique, Marxism, contradiction, struggle, social change

Suggested Citation

O'Connell, Paul, On the Human Rights Question (November 5, 2017). Forthcoming in Human Rights Quarterly (2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3065757

Paul O'Connell (Contact Author)

University of London, School of Oriental & African Studies - School of Law ( email )

London, WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

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