Two Episodes in the American Discourse of Economic Rights:
This study examines the concept and the discontinuous historical usage of the term “economic rights” in American political discourse. The study views the idea and ideology of “economic rights” as a discursive marker pointing to historically contingent relations between government, national economy and individual freedom. It focuses on the two American presidential articulations of an Economic Bill of Rights: one by Franklin Roosevelt and another by Ronald Reagan. These two articulations represent two opposing political traditions of economic rights in the
Further, this study explores the role of rhetorical agency in influencing the way “economic rights” are understood. It attends to the ways in which historical conjunctures pose limits on the articulations of political ideas and identities, and the way in which key actors like Roosevelt and Reagan respond skillfully to those conjunctural constraints, while others fail. The study argues that Roosevelt and Reagan used many of the very same arguments to propose two diametrically opposed conceptualizations of an Economic Bill of Rights. Their respective efforts attest to the importance of rhetoric in the struggle for political.
Finally, the study argues that while American political discourse has been saturated by “rights talk,” economic rights have not enjoyed the same currency as other rights, largely due to deeply entrenched though historically outdated understandings of the promise and possibilities of individual freedom and autonomy within the folds of a society completely transformed by capitalist modernity. The neglected history of economic rights discourse in the
Categories: economic, rights,, modernity,, citizenship,, American
United States History