08 April 2018

BOOK: Samuel MOYN, Not Enough : Human Rights in an Unequal World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018). ISBN 9780674737563, €27.00

Next week, Harvard University Press is due to publish a new book on the history of human rights and inequality.


The age of human rights has been kindest to the rich. Even as state violations of political rights garnered unprecedented attention due to human rights campaigns, a commitment to material equality disappeared. In its place, market fundamentalism has emerged as the dominant force in national and global economies. In this provocative book, Samuel Moyn analyzes how and why we chose to make human rights our highest ideals while simultaneously neglecting the demands of a broader social and economic justice.

In a pioneering history of rights stretching back to the Bible, Not Enough charts how twentieth-century welfare states, concerned about both abject poverty and soaring wealth, resolved to fulfill their citizens’ most basic needs without forgetting to contain how much the rich could tower over the rest. In the wake of two world wars and the collapse of empires, new states tried to take welfare beyond its original European and American homelands and went so far as to challenge inequality on a global scale. But their plans were foiled as a neoliberal faith in markets triumphed instead.

Moyn places the career of the human rights movement in relation to this disturbing shift from the egalitarian politics of yesterday to the neoliberal globalization of today. Exploring why the rise of human rights has occurred alongside enduring and exploding inequality, and why activists came to seek remedies for indigence without challenging wealth, Not Enough calls for more ambitious ideals and movements to achieve a humane and equitable world.


Samuel Moyn is Professor of Law and Professor of History at Yale University. His interests range widely over international law, human rights, the laws of war, and legal thought in both historical and contemporary perspective. He has published several books and writes in venues such as Boston ReviewChronicle of Higher EducationDissentThe NationNew RepublicNew York Times, and Wall Street Journal.


1. Jacobin Legacy: The Origins of Social Justice
2. National Welfare and the Universal Declaration
3. FDR’s Second Bill
4. Globalizing Welfare after Empire
5. Basic Needs and Human Rights
6. Global Ethics from Equality to Subsistence
7. Human Rights in the Neoliberal Maelstrom
Conclusion: Croesus’s World

More information on the publisher’s website

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