Poverty and the rhetoric of human rights: a reply to Bufacchi
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Severe poverty is one of the foremost moral issues of our time. The fact that around one in ten people worldwide lack access to the resources necessary to meet many of their most basic needs is egregious in light of the vast wealth possessed by the world’s economic elite. In his provocative contribution to this volume, Vittorio Bufacchi rightly characterises this situation as unjust, but he argues that we should resist calling it a human rights violation. In his view, characterising poverty as a human rights violation is empty rhetoric that not only fails to serve its purpose of motivating action in the fight against poverty, but potentially undermines this purpose and threatens support for human rights in general. In what follows, I challenge Bufacchi’s arguments for this view. His concerns about the rhetorical disvalue of characterizing poverty as a human rights violation rest on his claim that this characterisation cannot be substantiated. While I call into question the latter, I do think that Bufacchi is right to be wary of some of the ways in which the rhetoric of human rights is used in the discourse on global poverty.

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Edited by Suzanne Egan and Anna Chadwick
Monograph Book