Poverty and Fundamental Rights: The Justification and Enforcement of Socio-economic Rights

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)


This book addresses the pressing issues of severe poverty and inequality, and questions why violations of socio-economic rights are treated with less urgency than violations of civil and political rights. Socio-economic rights have been widely regarded as aspirational goals, rhetorically useful, but having few practical implications for government policy and the distribution of resources within a polity. It is not therefore surprising that socio-economic rights have been systematically neglected in the world today, with millions still lacking access even to basic shelter, food, or health-care. This book seeks to provide a sustained argument for placing renewed emphasis upon socio-economic rights in the fight against desperate poverty. It utilizes a combination of political philosophy, constitutional law and public policy in its focus on the right to food, housing and health-care. Part I involves the development of a philosophical theory of rights that provides a common normative foundation for both civil and political right and socio-economic rights. This theory involves developing an understanding of value that recognises individuals have fundamental interests of differing levels of urgency. A general theory of judicial review is also put forward that provides a justification for judicial involvement in the enforcement of socio-economic rights. Part II considers the implications of this general philosophical theory for the interpretation and enforcement of socio-economic rights in law. The focus is upon South Africa, where entrenched, directly justiciable socio-economic rights are expressly protected in the Constitution. The South African approach is shown to have important policy implications both for developing and developed countries and can, it is hoped, assist in creating an urgency and commitment towards eradicating extreme poverty.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages304
ISBN (Electronic)9780191709456
ISBN (Print)9780199552160
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Conditional rights
  • Constitutional law
  • Food
  • Health-care
  • Housing
  • Judicial review
  • Philosophy
  • South africa
  • Unconditional rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Poverty and Fundamental Rights: The Justification and Enforcement of Socio-economic Rights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this