Can Globalization Promote Human Rights?

Can Globalization Promote Human Rights?

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Can Globalization Promote Human Rights?
    Book Description:

    Globalization has affected everyone’s lives, and the reactions to it have been mixed. Legal scholars and political scientists tend to emphasize its harmful aspects, while economists tend to emphasize its benefits. Those concerned about human rights have more often been among the critics than among the supporters of globalization. In Can Globalization Promote Human Rights? Rhoda Howard-Hassmann presents a balanced account of the negative and positive features of globalization in relation to human rights, in both their economic and civil/political dimensions. On the positive side, she draws on substantial empirical work to show that globalization has significantly reduced world poverty levels, even while, on the negative side, it has exacerbated economic inequality across and within countries. Ultimately, she argues, social action and political decision making will determine whether the positive effects of globalization outweigh the negatives. And, in contrast to those who prefer either schemes for redistributing wealth on moral grounds or authoritarian socialist approaches, she makes the case for social democracy as the best political system for the protection of all human rights, civil and political as well as economic.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05522-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-17)

    One day in December 2007, I stood in my local drugstore contemplating which seasonal greeting cards I should buy. Several packages imported from the United States offered twelve cards for Can$14.99. One package imported from China offered twenty cards for Can$5.99. I debated over whether to buy the Chinese cards: Were the workers who produced them exploited? Should I boycott Chinese products? But in the end, I bought them.

    This personal debate illustrates the questions about globalization asked by private citizens in the Western world who value human rights. Many wonder whether globalization further impoverishes the underprivileged in poor countries...

    (pp. 18-32)

    Before presenting my argument about the relationship between human rights and globalization, I want to debunk an assumption sometimes found in human rights literature and among some activists critical of globalization: namely, that globalization has caused an increase in world poverty. Thomas, for example, argued in the late 1990s that two-thirds of the world’s population had gained little or nothing from economic growth (1998, 165). Ishay argues that intensified global competition has brought “increased poverty to much of the developing world” (2004, 294). Critics also assume that globalization exacerbates inequality both within and among countries, in turn increasing the rate...

    (pp. 33-48)

    Globalization is the second great transformation—the second time that capitalism has transformed international economic and social relations in much of the world. InThe Great Transformation(1944), Karl Polanyi explained the economic, social, and political changes that occurred in Europe, particularly Britain, from the last two decades of the eighteenth century to World War II. Those years saw a radical transformation in the way that most people lived. Peasants became artisans and members of the urban working class; they migrated from villages to cities and moved from closed, church-based societies to more open, secular communities. A new class of...

    (pp. 49-65)

    In this chapter and the next, I propose two complex ideal-type models of positive and negative relationships among globalization, economic development, and both civil/political and economic human rights. “Ideal type” is a phrase coined by the early twentieth-century German sociologist Max Weber. Ideal types do not describe any actual existing situations but “[construct] certain elements of reality into a logically precise conception,” thus showing the differences between types rather starkly (Gerth and Mills 1958, 59).

    The ideal types I present are my own models of two sets of social changes, one induced by transnational investment and the other induced by...

    (pp. 66-82)

    Chapter 4 discussed the theoretical possibility that in the long term, globalization could improve human rights worldwide. This chapter presents the alternate theoretical view: namely, that globalization is more likely to adversely affect human rights in the long term. Following the organization of chapter 4, I discuss simple models of a possible negative connection between globalization and human rights, followed by a more complicated model. As in chapter 4, I present ideal types, so my negative models are not meant to represent any real cases. I began chapter 4 by discussing the case for a global market economy; I end...

    (pp. 83-98)

    Human rights are frequently regarded only as dependent consequences of globalization: globalization affects human rights, but human rights do not affect globalization. Yet the principles, laws, and practices of global human rights governance independently affect both elite implementation of globalization and social action in favor of or against it. A major difference between the first and second great transformations is the existence the second time around of the international human rights regime and the international human rights social movement.

    The concept of human rights has leapfrogged across time and space. While the ideals and laws of universal, individual human rights...

    (pp. 99-114)

    Human rights have leapfrogged not only to new bearers of human rights obligations but also to new advocates for human rights. Increasingly, global governance responds to globalization from below, as citizens participate in developing rules for the global market economy and recommending the constraints and obligations they believe ought to be placed upon it. Citizens in places now being reached by the second great transformation are not in the same social position as those affected by the first. They need not wait 150 or 200 years before attaining their human rights. Indeed, globalization speeds up their access to the very...

    (pp. 115-130)

    The preceding two chapters suggest that one might be cautiously optimistic about human rights leapfrogging. Although the early twenty-first century was a time of world insecurity caused in part by globalization, both the human rights regime and civil society activism demonstrated some limited capacity to control those aspects of globalization that were more harmful than beneficial. Yet the damage caused by, or perceived to have been caused by, globalization may already be so great that slow, steady progress toward protection of human rights—civil and political as well as economic—will not occur everywhere in the world. Many millions of...

    (pp. 131-150)

    Critics of globalization look to different types of solutions to its adverse aspects. One proposed solution for inequality and poverty, whether they are caused by globalization or not, is redistribution of some of the world’s resources. Another proposed solution is to institute domestic authoritarian socialism to control a country’s relations with the world economy. The first solution is morally admirable but not entirely practical; the second is dangerous to both civil/political and economic human rights. Social democracy is the best political system for the protection of all human rights. However, serious threats to human security will remain, even in the...

    (pp. 151-168)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 169-182)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)