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The Politics of Recognition: Changing Understandings of Human Rights, Social Development and Land Rights as Normative Foundation of Global Social Policy

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The recent literature has identified ‘global social policy’ as a new field of global politics. The assumption is that since the 1990s ‘social’ issues have moved to global agendas which had been dominated by military and security matters and by economic issues. We inquire into the normative foundations of the new policy field. We conceive of social recognition – recognition of social problems, of individuals and groups in need, and of collective social responsibility – as the most basic normative and cognitive foundation of social policy. We, therefore, investigate if, when and how global politics of social recognition have emerged since the 1940s, focussing on human rights, social development, and land rights. We argue that these three fields have become key arenas for the recognition of the social, underpinning the rise of global social policy. The three fields emerged in the 1940s and 1950s but, as we demonstrate, only changing interpretations and understandings of human rights, of social development, and of land rights turned them into unequivocal normative foundations of social policy. The recognition perspective also highlights limitations of global social policy, such as a recognition overload and categorically bridled universalism. The article draws on interdisciplinary empirical work from law, sociology and land policy.


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