Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History
Socioeconomic rights have a long but poorly understood history. They are sometimes referred to as ‘second generation rights’, as twentieth-century additions to core civil and political rights stretching back to the European Enlightenment. Yet, socioeconomic rights – such as the right to work and to subsistence – emerged in the political struggles of the French Revolution and have been repeatedly argued for since then. Although most countries in the world have legally recognized them as ‘human rights’ by signing the United Nations’ 1966 International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they tend not to receive the same degree of legitimacy and visibility as civil and political rights.
This Leverhulme International Network brings together scholars from around the world to explore the history of socioeconomic rights. We will consider representations of them over time as well as the various political and philosophical challenges to them. Their history, we believe, is bound up with other historical dynamics, including notions about ‘duties’ and ‘obligations’, theories of political economy, politics (left and right), philanthropy and humanitarianism. While taking a broad view of socioeconomic rights, we will focus especially on health: a topic of government concern since the eighteenth century but one that became understood in terms of civil and human rights in the twentieth.
The network is hosted by the Global History and Culture Centre and European Centre at the University of Warwick. Claudia Stein (History) and Charles Walton (History) are leading it, with support from James Harrison (Law). Network partners include Harvard University (Samuel Moyn), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Sabine Arnaud), University of Lausanne (Mark Goodale), Leibniz Institute of European History (Fabian Klose) and Sciences Po in Paris (Nicolas Delalande and Paul-André Rosental).