What's Wrong with Rights?

What's Wrong with Rights? : Social Movements, Law and Liberal Imaginations

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Through mapping the rights discourse and the transformations in transnational finance capitalism since the world wars, and interrogating the connections between the two, Radha D'Souza examines contemporary rights in theory and practice through the lens of the struggles of the people of the Third World, their experiences of national liberation and socialism and their aspirations for emancipation and freedom.

Social movements demand rights to remedy wrongs and injustices in society. But why do organisations like the World Bank and IMF, the G7 states and the World Economic Forum want to promote rights? Activists and activist scholars are critical of human rights in their diagnosis of problems. But in their prognosis, they reinstate human rights and bring back through the backdoor what they dismiss through the front.

Why are activists and activist scholars unable to 'let go' of human rights? Why do indigenous peoples find the need to invoke the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People to make their claims sound reasonable? Are rights in the 20th and 21st centuries the same as rights in the 17th and 18th centuries?

This book examines what is entailed in reducing rights to 'human' rights and in the argument 'our understandings of rights are better than theirs' that is popular within social movements and in critical scholarship.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 22.86mm | 376.48g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745335411
  • 9780745335414
  • 659,038

Table of contents




Part 1: The Rights Resurgence

1. Social Movements, Law and Liberal Imaginations

2. What's Wrong With Rights?

3. Rights In the `Epoch of Imperialism'

Part 2: Re-scripting Rights

4. International Election Monitoring: From `Will of the People' to the `Right to free and Fair Elections'

5. The Rights of Victims: From Authorisation to Accountability

6. Intangible Property Rights: The IMF as Underwriters

7. Rights in International Neoliberal Risk-Governance Regime

Concluding Reflections

8. Rights and Social Movements in the `Epoch' of Imperialism


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Review quote

'This persuasively written book helps us to trace the location of rights in capitalism and imperialism' -- Shahrzad Mojab, Professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, University of Toronto, and co-author of Revolutionary Learning (Pluto, 2017) 'A brilliant interrogation of the powerful hold the concept of rights has over social movements ... An absolute must read for everybody concerned with rights as a means for realising justice' -- Sunera Thobani, Asian Studies/Critical Race Feminist Studies, University of British Columbia 'The book many of us have been waiting for - brilliant, radical, and essential thinking for our times.' -- Aziz Choudry, Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production, McGill University
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About Radha D'Souza

Radha D'Souza teaches law at the University of Westminster, London. She is a social justice activist, a writer, critic and commentator. She is author of What's Wrong with Rights? (Pluto, 2018) and Interstate Disputes Over Krishna Waters (Orient Longman, 2006) and works with the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) in the UK.
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