Eating Socioeconomic Rights: The Usefulness of Rights Talk in Alleviating Social Hardship Revisited
Abstract

This article considers anew the utility of rights-discourse in alleviating social hardship. It revisits the Critical Legal Studies-inspired debates on the topic, but in the context of justiciable socioeconomic rights, such as those found in the South African Constitution. The article explains the "emptiness" of the socioeconomic rights jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court by comparing the South African socioeconomic rights narrative to Peter Gabel's account of the manner in which rights discourse enables the status quo to assimilate and defeat social movements. By doing this, the article shows that socioeconomic rights are accomplices to, rather than victims of, the sidelining of the needs they represent, despite their transformative potential. However, since rights remain one of the only viable political tools through which denial of socioeconomic needs may effectively be confronted, we should not abandon rights-discourse but should instead attempt to translate abstract socioeconomic guarantees into concrete legal entitlements.

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