Chapter ThreeHuman Rights Cosmopolitanism

There is a long and rich history of theorizing on the nature, content, and ethical implications of human rights that extends at least as far back in intellectual history as Locke. In the latter half of the twentieth century, ethical theorists sought to clarify our understanding of human rights and corresponding duties. For example, Henry Shue famously and persuasively argued in 1980 that the distinction between so‐called negative rights to be free from interference and so‐called positive rights to certain goods or services is untenable, essentially rendering moot the idea that there can be duties regarding negative rights but no equivalent duties regarding positive rights (Lomasky 1987; Shue 1996). Basic rights take the form of side‐constraints on actions, that is they are moral boundaries on the actions of agents.

The moral account of rights defended here draws from the work of human rights scholars, but is novel insofar as it argues that transnational companies (TNCs) are properly understood as duty bearers in addition to individuals or states. This account of human rights has four essential features that are defended in this chapter. First, human rights are claim rights against parties with whom one stands in a relationship such as workers and their employers or community members and the TNCs that operate in those communities. Second, human rights are ultimately grounded in human agency or the capacity of persons to govern themselves. ...

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