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The Myth of Western Opposition to Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights?: A Reply to Whelan and Donnelly

From: Human Rights Quarterly
Volume 31, Number 1, February 2009
pp. 221-237 | 10.1353/hrq.0.0063



This reply questions the methodology Whelan and Donnelly have applied to the question of economic and social rights in the post-war era. We argue that by taking the global human rights regime at face value and neglecting the role of politics, power, and interests, Whelan and Donnelly have presented a distorted and partial view of the inclusion of economic and social rights, which inaccurately portrays such rights as “universal.” We put forward an alternative perspective that places human rights in the context of the global political economy. This allows us to understand the post-war discrepancy between the formal human rights regime, which posits the universality of all rights, and actual human rights practice, which has been founded upon the distinction between universal civil and political “rights” and uneven economic and social “entitlement.”