A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Globalisation
Corporations, Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by Janet Dine and Andrew Fagan
The contemporary form of the ancient debate about the ethics of wealth is the human-rights challenge to capitalism … The well-being of many depends on this project. (Freeman, Chapter 1, p. 26) Michael Freeman’s ‘Beyond capitalism and socialism’ commences the ﬁrst part of the book which considers conceptual and ethical issues. His contribution goes beyond the more familiar positive and negative empirical understanding of the relationship between capitalism and human rights and examines the way in which the two concepts relate to each other conceptually. Human rights concepts derive from the philosophy of natural law which formed the foundation for international law. On the other hand, ‘capitalism’ ‘derives from late eighteenth and nineteenth century political economy, which was developed, especially in the works of Karl Marx, to displace not only the concept of natural rights – the conceptual ancestor of human rights – but also the naturallaw philosophy that had provided its foundation’. Thus ‘the two discourses could observe each other, but could not meet on the same epistemological terrain’. The empirical relationship is a different discourse again. Freeman points out that the relationship between capitalism and human rights is necessary only if they provide complementary or opposing understanding of human freedoms, if capitalism is necessary to the attainment of freedom or, on the contrary, if capitalism is associated with oppression and exploitation. In the light of these conﬂicting relationships it has become ‘a common view that capitalism can, and should, be judged at the bar of justice, and that this includes,...