Good governance and the marketization of human rights: a critique of the neoliberal normative approach

Oche Onazi

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    A novelty of the current neoliberal development approach is its recognition of human rights as a precondition for constituting successful economic reforms. The good governance approach mainstreams this agenda, and departs from previous approaches, which had overlooked the social, structural and human aspects of economic reforms. Good governance now shapes the impact of human rights through the normative weight it attaches to markets. It is now common to find rather controversial arguments that consider the market economy as a prerequisite for human rights. Not surprisingly, the approach has attracted the criticism that it reduces human rights to a narrowly conceived market-friendly concept. This market-oriented view is frequently articulated in opposition to the state, given that the latter is generally mistrusted by the market. The arguments against the state are, of course, not without merit, given that the phenomenon of state failure is real and not imagined. The problem with these perspectives is that for the market pessimist or the state sceptic, there is little or no space for alternatives that allow a change in thinking, something that is so badly needed in human rights terms. At the moment, the language of state and market seems to dominate discussions about human rights. The market is considered as the only viable alternative to the state, so is the state considered as the only alternative to the market. This article rejects this commonly held view. It outlines and defends the possibility of an alternative in the idea of community, a concept that has suffered from the hegemony of the state and market. The potential of community, it is argued, cannot continue to be ignored, given that it can provide a significant framework, through which a number of supporting relationships can be built, especially to encourage the most deprived in society to develop abilities of democratic organization, ownership and autonomy over the processes of securing their human rights
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalLaw, Social Justice and Global Development
    Issue number2 (14)
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Human Rights; Good Governance; State; Market; Community


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