International Conference: Humanitarianism and Charity. Expressions of or Alternatives to Socioeconomic Rights?

Convenors: Fabian Klose (Mainz), Claudia Stein (Warwick), Charles Walton (Warwick)
Venue: Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) Mainz
Date: September 28 – 29, 2017

Socioeconomic rights have a long but poorly understood history. They are sometimes referred to as ‘second generation rights’, as twentieth-century additions to core civil and political rights stretching back to the European Enlightenment. Yet, socioeconomic rights – such as the right to work and to subsistence – emerged in the political struggles of the French Revolution and have been repeatedly argued for since then. Although most countries in the world have legally recognized them as ‘human rights’ by signing the United Nations’ 1966 International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they tend not to receive the same degree of legitimacy and visibility as civil and political rights.
At this international conference at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, as part of the Leverhulme International Network ‘Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History’, international scholars discuss the history of socioeconomic rights from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. In particular, they focus on the complex relationship between a discourse on socioeconomic rights and debates about humanitarianism and charity thus seeking to connect these two important fields of research. In this context the leading questions are: How has humanitarianism and charity figured within the rhetoric of rights? How have the politics of obligation differed between voluntary and rights-based approaches to dealing with socio-economic crises and deprivations? How have states and NGO’s tried to balance providing for urgent needs with the more long-term development of a rights-based approach upheld by the sovereign state?


Thursday, September 28, 2017

2:00pm-2:30pm Fabian Klose (Mainz), Claudia Stein (Warwick), and Charles Walton (Warwick), Welcome and Introduction

2:30-3:30pm Keynote Lecture I:
Michael Barnett (Washington), ‘Humanitarianism and Socio-Economic Rights: Look, But Don’t Touch’

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Workshop Arguments for and against Socioeconomic Rights, Past and Present

Socioeconomic Rights in History Workshop Leverhulme Trust International Network at Harvard Law School March 20-21, 2017


March 20, Monday

9:00 – 9:30am Introduction

9:30 – 11:15am Small group meetings

Six groups will meet separately to discuss papers

Group 1: The Early Modern and Enlightenment Eras Claudia Stein, Darrin McMahon and Dan Edelstein

Group 2: The Age of Revolutions Charles Walton, Mark Philp, Hannah Callaway, Philip Kaisary

Group 3: Labour Rights and Gender Tonia Novitz, Jennifer Klein, Laura Frader, Alice Kessler-Harris

Group 4: Socioeconomic Rights before 1948 Marco Duranti, Stephen Sawyer, William Novak, Samuel Moyn

Groups 5 and 6 will meet together Group 5: Socioeconomic Rights in 1948 and after Mark Goodale, Christian Christiansen, Steven Jensen, Samuel Moyn

Group 6: Interdisciplinary inflections and Recent History Sridhar Venkatapuram, Radhika Balakrishnan, Mark Goodale

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Workshop: Health, Well-Being and Subsistence in the History of Socioeconomic Rights, Duties and Obligations,10-11 November 2016

Socioeconomic Rights in History Leverhulme Network

Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB)

Workshop Organised by:

Dieter Gosewinkel, Paul-André Rosental, and Claudia Stein

This two-day workshop will explore the history of the rights to health and subsistence from the eighteenth century to today from the perspective of governmentality and biopolitics.

The papers (3-5 pages each) will be submitted by November 1 and will be pre-circulated to all participants. During the workshop, each contributor will summarize his or her reflections in 10-15 minutes, followed by 30-40 minutes of discussion. The papers are in English. Our principal aim is to discover underlying themes and problems in the history of the right to health and subsistence over time.


Thursday, 10 November

9.15                 Meet at WZB, Reichspietsufer 50, 10785 Berlin, room:  TBA

9.30                 Opening comments


Session 1: Legal Preliminaries: Right to Health and Subsistence from a Legal Perspective

9.45                 Eberhard Eichenhofer, University of Jena

Right to Health: Some Observations from the German Perspective

Session 2: Traditions and Institutions of Care and Subsistence

10.30               Andrew Mendelsohn, Queen Mary, University of London,

Physicians, the Protectable Worker’s Body, the Minable Earth, and the Naturalization of Sustainable Organized Extractive Capitalism

11.15               Coffee Break

11.30               Hilary Marland/Catharine Cox/Margaret Charleroy, University of Warwick/University College Dublin

presentation of two research projects related to the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award Project: Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000

Governmentality and Prisoners’ Minds in the late Nineteenth Century:  Was there a Prisoners’ ‘Right to Health’?

Understanding Prisoner Rights Through Diet and Health

12.15               Cornelius Torp (FU, Berlin)

Social Justice in Old Age Provision: Germany and the UK since 1945

13.00               lunch WZB

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Towards a History of Socioeconomic Rights

First event of the Socioeconomic Rights in History Network will take place in Paris at the Institut d’Études avancées.

There will be public lectures at 18 November 2015, 14h-17h:



Socioeconomic Rights in History: Questions and Problems

Charles Walton, University of Warwick

Health and the History of Socioeconomic Rights since 1750

Claudia Stein, University of Warwick



The Demise of Social Rights as Human Rights in Europe

Marco Duranti, University of Sydney

The Human Right to Health: the Modern Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Sridhar Venkatapuram, King’s College London


Comments, Q & A