Abstract: This essay examines how UN human rights bodies engaged with the problem of economic inequality at different historical moments. It considers how the question of economic inequality was taken up in three different periods: in the period of human rights standard setting and implementation (1945-1968); during a period of global contestation and demands for a New International Economic Order (1968-1989); and finally during a period of growing neoliberal hegemony (1990-present). It suggests that considering the ways in which institutional debates within the UN have grappled in different periods with the problem of economic inequality – among countries, within countries and among citizens of the world – often at the instigation of countries of the global South, can enable critical thinking about possibilities and limits of human rights in our starkly unequal present. Moreover, retrieving these forgotten struggles and alternative conceptions and formulations of rights might provide impetus for reimagining the more redistributive possibilities for human rights in contemporary debates.
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In our new issue we have essays on the anarchist contribution to human rights and saving children from child labor. We also feature a dossier on human rights and economic inequality, with contributions on social rights, structural inequalities, redistribution and ecological overshoot, the New International Economic Order, the UN, debt, taxation and poetics.View entire issue >
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