Student review: Debating Social Rights

November 3, 2011

Authors: Conor Gearty and Virginia Mantouvalou

Edition: First

Publisher: Hart

Pages: 201

Price: £15.00

ISBN 9781849460231

Debating Social Rights is part of Hart's Debating Law series, edited by Peter Cane, which offers scholarly experts the opportunity to present contrasting perspectives on significant topics of contemporary, general interest. In this volume, Conor Gearty and Virginia Mantouvalou debate the legal enforcement of socio-economic entitlements. The authors take opposing sides in the debate over whether it is appropriate for government to ensure social rights.

The main aim of the text is to provide the reader with an introduction to the theoretical debate of social rights, and it is exceedingly successful in doing so. The authors' discussions focus on how best to give effect to social rights. The debate concerning the status of social rights - in comparison with civil and political rights - in the hierarchy of human rights generations is adeptly accentuated. The authors stress that individuals do not see themselves as compelled to promote or even enforce social rights, whereas those accused of violating civil or political rights are quick to deny any violations.

The book's innovative format presents the reader with two different views on the topic and, accordingly, it is divided into two sections. In the first, Gearty argues for human rights dialogue to work effectively in order to promote social justice. Opposing judicial enforcement, he asks why we should care, how we should care, and how we can "tame the lawyers". He painstakingly highlights the important role of rights language in the debate and acknowledges that human rights are not exclusively civil and political but are also social rights, which have progressive and emancipatory attributes.

In the second section, Mantouvalou maintains that social rights are intrinsic to the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole. In support of the legalisation of social rights, she considers its brief and unhappy history, its common foundations, the content of duties and horizontality, and social rights and foreign nationals in need. She illustratively examines the role of the courts and of legislators around the world in support of her argument in favour of creating legislation to give effect to social rights.

This text offers an important and informative contribution to the field of social rights within the realm of human rights. The authors navigate the various national and regional institutions in their endeavour to highlight the significance of these rights.

Who is it for? Suitable for all human rights students, and essential reading for postgraduates in the field.

Presentation: Skilfully written in a clear and eloquent manner.

Would you recommend it? Yes, unreservedly. This book provides an insight into an area of human rights that is markedly under-researched by academics.

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