The annual course “The Diversity of Human Rights” addresses different problems within the human rights discourse. The participants come from various countries and bring in different disciplinary competences relevant for human rights theory and practice. The course aims at an interdisciplinary debate, especially between philosophy, jurisprudence, and political science. Furthermore, the course intends to establish a dialogue between researchers and human rights activists from the region.
The topic of this year’s course will be “Human Rights and Capitalism”. Using the term “capitalism” to signify the global economic order is controversial. While many publications in German rather refer to the seemingly non-ideological term “global liberal market economy”, the Anglo-American literature speaks of a capitalist economy describing a politically and juristically deregulated economy that is organized according to shareholder interests, as the global financial economy illustrates.
From the perspective of human rights there are many different questions concerning the relation between capitalism and human rights. For a start, capitalism does not seem to work without the recognition and institutionalization of (some) human rights. The claim that human rights are a necessary condition for capitalism was already put forward by Marx in his critique of human rights. Thus, the question arises which human rights exactly are necessary for capitalism, and in which way? Or does this claim even hold true for all human rights?
On the other hand, it seems possible to conceive of human rights as a resource for a critique of capitalism. There are many issues that point to a human rights-based critique of (deregulated) capitalism, such as the large gap between the poor and the rich, the persistence of extreme poverty, the deregulation and disintegration of the welfare state, the destruction of the environment, the excessive exploitation of natural resources, the commodification of nearly all spheres of life, the lack of political control and the disempowerment of democracy. With regards to all these questions, human rights might provide a basis for a critique of capitalism.