Contesting austerity: the potential and pitfalls of socioeconomic rights discourse

Joe J Wills, Ben TC Warwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
308 Downloads (Pure)


This article argues that, while socioeconomic rights have the potential to contribute to the contestation of austerity measures and the reimagining of a “postneoliberal” order, there are a number of features of socioeconomic rights as currently constructed under international law that limit these possibilities. We identify these limitations as falling into two categories: “contingent” and “structural.” Contingent limitations are shortcomings in the current constitution of socioeconomic rights law that undermine its effectiveness for challenging austerity measures. By contrast, the structural limitations of socioeconomic rights law are those that pertain to the more basic presuppositions and axioms that provide the foundations for legal rights discourse. We address these limitations and conclude by arguing that it is possible to harness the strengths of socioeconomic rights discourse while mitigating its shortcomings. A key element in moving beyond these shortcomings is the development of an understanding of such rights as just one component in a portfolio of counterhegemonic discourses that can be mobilized to challenge neoliberalism and austerity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-664
Number of pages36
JournalIndiana Journal of Global Legal Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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