During my stay at Onati, I worked on a chapter of my forthcoming book Governing Homo Economicus: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism. The book examines the historical ‘coincidence’ of the rise of the international human rights movement and the victory of neoliberalism in the late 1970s. I worked on the chapter “The Great Reversal: Governing the Social” which focuses on the social and economic rights in the UDHR, and the neoliberal critique of them launched by Friedrich von Hayek. At Onati, I tracked the arguments during the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about whether the declaration should include social and economic rights at all, or be confined to the more familiar liberal civil and political rights. Against those thinkers, like Hannah Arendt, who have viewed the ‘social question’ as the intrusion of biological necessity into the political sphere, I consider the UDHR debates through the lens of a politics of need which recognises that human need is historically and politically constituted.
Onati was a peaceful and beautiful place to write and research. All the staff at the IISL were extremely helpful and the library is a fantastic resource for scholars and students of law and sociology.