Economic rights as human rights: Commodification and moral parochialism

Daniel Attas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Human rights are a construct of international law. Their legitimacy depends on them being informed by the deep-seated fact of global cultural pluralism and the concern of establishing a system that recognizes this pluralism, transcends a narrow parochial perspective and thus avoids the accusation of cultural or moral colonialism. There are two broad strategies to do this: by invoking an individualist-moral conception of HR designed to promote well-being and by invoking a social-political conception of HR aimed at preserving world peace and stability. Economic rights are rights to commodify-to sell one’s labor, to buy goods and services and so on-under fair terms. That is to say, to take part in economic activities such as production and consumption within a distinctive social form by which they are mediated through exchange. I argue that endorsing rights of commodification is incompatible with a genuine concern with parochialism. Economic rights are neither necessary to protect some natural interest shared by all humans, nor the stability of a peaceful world order. Hence, economic rights should not be considered human rights.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationEconomic Liberties and Human Rights
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781351329606
ISBN (Print)9781138574397
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Taylor & Francis.


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