Rights, Development and Critical Modernity
PluriCourts researcher Malcolm Langford published an article in Development and Change (2015), 46(4), 777-802. Read the article (SSRN).
The march of rights into international development offers, on the face of it, a more progressive and transformational paradigm. Contemporary rights expressions are more expansive and diverse than their nineteenth-century fore-bears. Inevitably though, rights-based approaches have been criticized, with claims that rights have contributed to a minimization and individualization of distributive justice and participatory democracy or even been appropriated for profoundly anti-transformational ends. This article argues that the critics need to be taken seriously, but that their complaints suffer from many of the familiar problems with critical theory and post-developmentalism. Instead, it is posited that the frame of critical modernity allows scholars and practitioners to better understand, chart and constructively critique the uptake of rights in development. This reflexive standpoint also allows one to focus on those dimensions of rights approaches that remain under-developed but carry the greatest potential, namely notions of citizenship, agency and accountability.