In Struggles for the Human, Lara Montesinos Coleman blends ethnography, political philosophy, and critical theory to reorient debates on human rights through attention to understandings of legality, ethics, and humanity in anticapitalist and decolonial struggle. Drawing on her extensive involvement with grassroots social movements in Colombia, Coleman observes that mainstream expressions of human rights have become counterparts to capitalist violence, even as this discourse disavows capitalism’s deadly implications. She rejects claims that human rights are inherently tied to capitalism, liberalism, or colonialism, instead showing how human rights can be used to combat these forces. Coleman demonstrates that social justice struggles that are rooted in marginalized communities’ lived experiences can reframe human rights in order to challenge oppressive power structures and offer a blueprint for constructing alternative political economies. By examining the practice of redefining human rights away from abstract universals and contextualizing them within concrete struggles for justice, Coleman reveals the transformative potential of human rights and invites readers to question and reshape dominant legal and ethical narratives.
Acknowledgments xi Introduction. Human Rights in Struggle 1 1. Necroeconomics: Violence, Law, and Twenty-First-Century Plunder 27 2. Deadly Colonial Ethics: Development Policy-Speak and Corporate Responsibility 57 3. Privatizing Workers’ Rights: Social Partnership in a Neoliberal World 81 4. Elusive Justice: Capital, Impunity, and Counterlegality 105 5. From Pernicious Optimism to Radical Hope: Human Rights beyond Abstract Values 132 6. For an Insurgent Humanism 153 Conclusion. What Do We Make of Human Rights? Ten Points 170 Notes 175 Bibliography 213 Index 239
Lara Montesinos Coleman is Reader in International Relations, Law, and Development and Director of the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex and coeditor of Situating Global Resistance: Between Discipline and Dissent.
“Lara Montesinos Coleman’s arresting and beautiful ethnography of Colombian resistance movements doubles as an informed and sophisticated critical intervention into the controversy about the meanings of human rights in an age of neoliberalism. Bypassing the politics of struggle, the book proves, is a mistake for anyone rushing to bury—or praise—human rights today.”
~Samuel Moyn, Yale University
“In Struggles for the Human, Lara Montesinos Coleman brings together a blistering critique of mainstream human rights practices and a nuanced account of neoliberalism with a defense of the continued use of human rights by radical social movements. Coleman shows how human rights retain a disruptive potential and can contribute to the dismantling of capitalist structures of impunity. Breaking new ground in our thinking about rights, capitalist power, and emancipation, this is an indispensable book for all those interested in the politics of human rights, radical social movements, and political philosophy.”
~Jessica Whyte, author of, The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism