Chapter One provides an overview to the main arguments of the book against the background of a number of contemporary crises, including economic and social inequality, the rise of religious and ethno-nationalism, global resource conflicts, and human-induced climate change. After introducing the idea that existing international human rights were "invented" within a specific historical trajectory, the chapter then explains why human rights can and must be "reinvented" in the future as a logic for translocal solidarity and collective action that takes root beyond traditional politics, legal institutions, and state control.
Chapter Two examines the relationship between existing human rights and global capitalism, and then the relationship between a reinvented human rights and the world's dominant political economy. It describes important debates around human rights and economics that took place in the context of the 1947-1948 UNESCO human rights survey, in which a number of leading intellectuals argued that a late-eighteenth century charter of rights was incompatible with the challenges of the twentieth century. The chapter concludes by showing how a reinvented human rights would require the development of non-capitalist economic networks that are animated by the values of ecological sustainability and socioeconomic equality.
Chapter Three examines various structural problems for existing international human rights that are derived from the centrality of the nation-state. It begins by unpacking the early rise of the Westphalian state and the development of the principle of sovereignty, which would structure international relations from the mid-seventeenth century to the present. After showing how the principle of sovereignty creates a structural contradiction with human rights, the chapter then analyzes other ways in which state-centricity is in tension with both existing human rights, and the proposal to reinvent human rights for the future. The chapter concludes by arguing that a reinvented human rights must be detached from the state as a locus of legitimacy and control.
Chapter Four analyzes the fundamental relationship between human rights and law, both in national legal systems and in international law, especially within international criminal justice tribunals. The chapter argues that the logics of law work in complicated ways in relation to human rights, particularly when human rights is mobilized as a framework for social change. After showing how claims for justice through international law are based on a set of questionable cultural and linguistic assumptions, the chapter goes on to explain how a reinvented human rights must be developed outside of legal institutions and documents.
Chapter Five examines the ways in which existing international human rights have always been intimately linked with histories of both colonialism and anti-colonial struggle. After exploring the meanings and importance of decolonization for the project to reinvent human rights, the chapter considers the role that education must play in this process. Drawing on innovative work from both the field of human rights education (HRE) and the critical pedagogy of liberation theorists such as Paolo Freire, the chapter argues that education must mediate the transformation of existing human rights from its legal and institutional forms into a translocal logic of collective action.
Chapter Six examines the ways in which a reinvented human rights must be based in a different configuration of pluralism, universalism, and cultural diversity. After discussing the problematic historical, legal, and philosophical legacy of the "universal" in universal human rights, the chapter returns to the fundamental importance of pluralism as the basis for a new conception of human rights. The chapter concludes by arguing that a reinvented human rights can be understood as a new way of belonging, one that works to give shape and form to pluriversal generativity and intercultural empathy and alliance-building.
Chapter Seven examines the place of the subject(s) within an alternative conception of human rights. After reviewing the history of the category "human" at the core of existing international human rights, the chapter describes the frontiers of contemporary mobilizations for human rights and justice, the outer limits where technology, radical philosophy, and transnational power have created a provocative confluence that holds important lessons for the subjects of a reinvented human rights. The chapter concludes by reflecting on what it means for a reinvented human rights to depend on the "rediscovered self": the capacity and willingness to reimagine personhood as a precondition for new forms of rights mobilizations.
The book's concluding chapter examines in detail the nuances of our G20 world: the ways in which a "post-internationalist" fusion of global economic and political power is reflected in social, institutional, and technological formations that create significant challenges for human rights. After describing how the international human rights system has been increasingly coopted by key players at the center of the G20 as a means of legitimating political economic interests through human rights, the chapter concludes by reflecting on what it would mean to develop an alternative framework for human rights in a world marked by the fusion of economic and political power. If capitalism fundamentally depends upon multiple, systemic, and enduring forms of dispossession, then the task of a reinvented human rights must be understood as one of repossession, of recovery, and of renewal.