Summary and Keywords
Economic rights refer to the right to property, the right to work, and the right to social security. Social rights are those entitlements necessary for an adequate standard of living, including rights to food, housing, health, and education. Since economic rights have a social basis, and social rights have an economic basis, both classifications are considered of equal importance and interdependent. The intellectual and social dimensions of economic and social rights have evolved from at least four spheres: religion, philosophy, politics, and law. Throughout history, individuals and groups debated and accepted obligations to help the needy and prevent suffering. There were both religious and secular dimensions to these undertakings. Early human rights advocates moreover proclaimed an interdependence between civil and political rights and economic and social rights and criticized those who made too sharp a distinction between them. A central debate over economic and social rights relates to their legal validity. Some scholars argue that by their very nature, economic and social rights are not “justiciable.” Another issue is the link between economic and social rights in meeting basic human needs and the alleviation of global poverty. The right to development is also important in debates on economic and social rights, as it attempts to correct the economic distortions left by the legacy of colonial domination. Perhaps the most promising new approach to economic and social rights is Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, which focuses on what individuals need for adequate functioning.
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