SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

O'Connell, Paul (2018) 'On the Human Rights Question.' Human Rights Quarterly, 40 (4). pp. 962-988.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (521kB) | Preview


There is a marked disjuncture today between the generalized critique and rejection of human rights by many progressive and critical commentators, and the embrace of the language of human rights by a variety of movements around the world engaged in struggles for social change. This divide between critical theory and critical practice raises important questions about whether and how movements for fundamental social change should engage with human rights. In contrast to a number of well-established critical dismissals of rights, this article argues, from within the Marxist tradition, that human rights can, and in some cases should, be deployed by social movements in their campaigns. However, reaching this conclusion requires developing an understanding of human rights that gives primacy to social struggle and to a nuanced understanding of the contradictory nature of human rights.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
School Research Centres > Centre for Human Rights Law
ISSN: 02750392
Copyright Statement: © 2018 Johns Hopkins University Press. This is the accepted version of an article published by John Hopkins University Press in Human Rights Quarterly:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2017 10:25

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item