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Writing the History of Socioeconomic Rights

 Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th May 2015

This is an invitation-only workshop, convened by Dr Claudia Stein of the Centre for the HIstory of Medicine and Dr Charles Walton of the Eighteenth Century Centre, and in collaboration with the European History Research Centre and the Global History and Culture Centre.

During this two-day workshop, we will consider how to write the history of socioeconomic rights – rights to health, food, work, housing and education. These rights, which have received considerably less attention than civil and political rights, have recently come into focus among scholars and NGOs. Often considered to be ‘second generation rights’, that is, as twentieth-century additions to ‘core’ civil and political rights stretching back to the eighteenth century, notions of socioeconomic rights stretch back, in fact, to the Enlightenment. Socioeconomic rights exploded into the politics of the French Revolution. Since then, however, their legitimacy has been contested and has proved to be more precarious than that of civil and political rights. What accounts for this historical precariousness?

This workshop is being held during the IAS fellowship of Samuel Moyn (Harvard Law School, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History). It will bring together scholars working from different disciplinary perspectives – history, law, politics, literature, philosophy, anthropology – in an effort to conceptualise problems and dynamics related to the history of socioeconomic rights. We aim to explore the complicated interactions between these rights and politics, political economy, philosophy, humanitarianism, theories of law and rights, biopolitics and health, international relations and economic conjunctures.

You can access the workshop programme here.