An introduction to the dossier on social rights.
Over the course of the Cold War and beyond, Western commentators tirelessly criticized the Soviet Union and its satellite states for ignoring and/or violating human rights in their national territories, despite lip service paid to these cherished ideals. Betts seeks to shift the focus by exploring how human rights were discussed and understood in the Eastern Bloc from the mid-1960s on, using the German Democratic Republic as a case study. Particular emphasis is placed on the ways in which socialist theorists—initially hostile to Western human rights talk—eventually found a way of accommodating human rights with socialist ideals. It is, Betts argues, the materialization of social rights (as opposed to the abstract civil rights of the West) that largely distinguished the socialist understanding of rights in East Germany, dovetailing as they did with broader notions of national sovereignty and socialist civilization.