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Do corporations have positive human rights obligations?

Bilchitz, D. ORCID: (2010) Do corporations have positive human rights obligations? Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, 57 (125). pp. 1-35. ISSN 0040-5817

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This article deals with the question whether corporations should have obligations to take positive steps to contribute towards the realisation of fundamental rights. The article commences with a central objection against corporations having such obligations and an analysis of some of the assumptions underlying this objection. The second part of this article challenges some of these assumptions: first, I argue that the legal nature of the corporation implies that it is an entity that is both separate from and dependent upon the individuals underlying it. That understanding informs the idea that there are two central perspectives from which the purpose of the corporation can be understood: a societal perspective (the normative perspective that lawmakers should adopt) and the individual perspective of those investing in or managing a corporation. Understanding the different purposes underlying the corporate structure then provides the basis for two arguments for recognising that corporations should have positive obligations for the realisation of rights: an argument from the limits of private property and an argument from social benefit. This article develops an understanding of the corporation as an agent that is an integral part of society that is required to contribute towards the realisation of fundamental rights. It, however, does so in a distinctive manner: it remains an entity with a commercial focus that must seek to give expression to the interests of individuals underlying it. This article thus argues for a nuanced understanding of the role of the corporation that balances both individual and societal goals.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:103109
Publisher:Berghahn Books

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