Patrick Macklem’s book is a welcome intervention in current discussions about the contextual and structural dimensions that account for human rights abuses. Macklem’s book contributes to this discussion, introducing the international legal order as a relevant dimension to be considered. Macklem does so by arguing that international law in part structures our globalized world and that human rights as international legal entitlements also play a role in this process. Human rights, Macklem argues, monitor the international legal order’s structuring of our world, they mitigate the adverse consequences of this structuring, and, when monitoring and mitigating, they also render the international legal order legitimate. What Macklem proposes is a conceptual link between human rights and the international legal order, in which legitimacy of the latter depends on meeting the structural demands of justice required by the former. This conceptual link, however, requires actual articulation. I will explore an example of this articulation in Latin America. When human rights appeared in the region, they did so under a conception that linked them to the international legal structure. Latin American states participated in the codification of human rights not only to limit the scope of diplomatic protection but also to give social policies like land redistribution international legitimacy. While the conceptual link identified by Macklem is crucial, the Latin American example suggests that it was an underlying political ideology about regional solidarity – the project of ‘American International Law’ – which allowed human rights to embody structural transformation. With that ideological project gone, it remains to been seen if human rights, at least in Latin America, may again convey yearnings for international justice.


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pp. 465-495
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