Human rights : an investigation into the importance of second generation rights

Bentley, Kristina Anne (1998) Human rights : an investigation into the importance of second generation rights. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This study examines the notion of universal human rights in the context of the importance of social and economic rights for the agency and dignity of human beings. It argues that the recognition of basic rights to what is necessary for physical well-being is essential to any adequate theory of human rights, and that rights of the civil and political variety depend on the recognition of social and economic rights if they are to be exercised. Therefore the secondary status which is usually accorded to social andeconomic rights results in an imbalanced ideal of human rights both in theory and in practice. This study is an attempt to place second generation rights in their proper context and to argue for them as human rights of equal status and importance. It focuses on the derivation of human rights in general, and shows that second generation rights may be accommodated within this structure. It further supports this pos~ion by showing that the categorical differences which are asserted to exist between first and second generation rights are based on a mistaken conception of positive and negative rights and duties, as well as an inadequate conception of liberty. The thesis shows that all rights generate a variety of duties, both positive and negative, and that an adequate theory of rights has to be able to accommodate the inevitability of conflicts of right$ at the level of their enforcement. Consequently, this study argues there is no reason to give either class of right primary importance, as both first and second generation human rights are essential to the agency and dignity of a human being, and they are thus interdependent. Furthermore, the thesis shows that human rights can be balanced at the level of the obligations which they generate without compromising the deontological nature of such rights. This thesis argues that a theory of rights which is rooted in the liberal democratic notion of rights, such as that characterised by the choice theory of rights, is inadequate. It therefore argues that a benefit theory of rights must be adopted in order to accommodate conflicts of rights when they arise. The thesis argues that as such conflicts of rights are" most common in cases involving the assertion of social and economic rights, this balancing of rights is of special significance for the enforcement of second generation rights. Furthermore, this thesis argues for a theory of minimal interdependence of first and second generation rights, in order to accommodate the notion of first and second generation rights of equal status and importance, as well as to prevenf an~inflation of rights claims which would compromise the balancing of rights. It is argued that a reordering of values is necessary to take account of material well-being, as well as civil freedom, as both of these generate fundamental rights of equal status and importance.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Human rights
Subjects:J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Political Studies and International Studies
ID Code:3180
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:15 Aug 2012 07:18
Last Modified:15 Aug 2012 07:18
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