In the service of power: the global political economy of citizenship and human rights

Evans, Tony and Ayers, Alison J. (2006) In the service of power: the global political economy of citizenship and human rights Citizenship Studies, 10, (3), pp. 289-308. (doi:10.1080/13621020600772081).


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This article investigates how the idea of universal human rights has been co-opted by the prevailing (neo)liberal consensus in support of processes associated with capitalist globalization. So-called “civil and political” rights form the core of (neo)liberal values upon which free market, laissez-faire economics are based, but the idealism of the dichotomy of first and second generation rights is profoundly ideological. Through an examination of the idea of the international citizen, it is argued that the attempt to introduce a duty to promote the widest possible social good falls far short of an obligation to respond to claims for alternative conceptions of “economic and social” rights; far less alternative models of social affairs. Drawing on empirical evidence from Africa, the article contends that the dominance of (neo)liberal rights is integral to the emerging (neo)liberal constitution of the global order effected in the name of “human rights”, “democratization”, “citizenship”, “good governance” and “civil society”. Never in the recent past have the founding principles of universal rights been so instrumentalized in the service of power, to such an extent that … in the opening years of the twentieth-century, we can speak of a veritable apogee of hegemony and an unprecedented crystallization of the hatreds that it arouses. (Bessis, 2003)Rather than being essentially a product of modernity, as I have suggested, human rights are now seen as our principal hope for protection from modernity … As with all successful normative institutions, rights come to be seen as the answer to the very social problems of which they are, in fact, a primary symptom. (Hopgood, 2000)

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/13621020600772081
ISSNs: 1362-1025 (print)

ePrint ID: 49344
Date :
Date Event
1 July 2006Published
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 18:18
Further Information:Google Scholar

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