Human Rights after Fukuyama

Kathryn McNeilly and Ben Warwick (eds), The Times and Temporalities of International Human Rights Law (Hart Publishing 2022) https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/times-and-temporalities-of-international-human-rights-law-9781509949908/

18 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2022

See all articles by Michele Tedeschini

Michele Tedeschini

Free University of Berlin (FUB) - Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science ; SciencesPo - Sciences po Paris Law School

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

Francis Fukuyama’s announcement of the ‘end of history’ (EoH) continues resurfacing 30 years after its formulation. While ostensibly concerned with liberal democracy, the EoH is best understood as a celebration of capitalist economics. Fukuyama’s early claim captured the zeitgeist of an era in which capital’s hold on society would intensify in what had been the Western Bloc, while also extending its reach to former communist countries. But if capitalist triumphalism resides at its core, international human rights (IHRs) also occupy a central place in EoH thinking. The latter tends to equate rights with civil and political freedoms, which offer legal foundations for market transactions and pose no threat to the economic structure. This dominant declination of IHRs shares in the cancellation of the future operated by EoH discourse, positing worldwide capitalism as the final stage in the linear progression of human history. Accordingly, when addressing global problems, orthodox IHRs scholarship largely ignores such structural barriers to change as resulting from historically contingent economic arrangements. The paper examines some scholarly works that take issue with this mainstream approach, thereby raising questions about the future of IHRs. It thus identifies three temporal themes that have emerged in post-Cold War literature: ‘not-yetness’ (Douzinas, Rajagopal via Chakrabarty), reversal of historical time (Hopgood, Moyn, O’Connell), and unpredictability (Baxi, McNeilly). These constructs can be understood as rebuttals of the static vision of IHRs associated with the EoH thesis, as well as symptoms of a growing anxiety rooted in the enduring discursive grip of the latter. Their analysis suggests two considerations. First, the more one strives to form concrete images of different futures supported by some (however radical) reinterpretation of IHRs, the harder it gets to conjure up any radical break with EoH capitalism. By contrast, whenever open-ended departures from the extant socio-economic structure are invoked, it becomes difficult to determine to what extent radically resignifying IHRs would be a cause, and to what extent a result, of those departures. Secondly, one may wonder why the monolithic label of ‘international human rights’ would stand, if all socio-economic relations were to fundamentally change, perhaps in ways that differ from region to region, exploding the partisan fantasy that the whole of humanity inhabits a common historical time.

Keywords: human rights, temporality, end of history, capitalism

Suggested Citation

Tedeschini, Michele, Human Rights after Fukuyama ( 2022). Kathryn McNeilly and Ben Warwick (eds), The Times and Temporalities of International Human Rights Law (Hart Publishing 2022) https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/times-and-temporalities-of-international-human-rights-law-9781509949908/, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4262734

Michele Tedeschini (Contact Author)

Free University of Berlin (FUB) - Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science ( email )

14195 Berlin
Germany

SciencesPo - Sciences po Paris Law School ( email )

13 rue de l'université
Paris, 75007
France

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