Expert answer:Should Leisure time be a right?


Solved by verified expert:Based from the attached article please respond:In 1948 the United Nations issued a Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR).It includes the
following: Everyone has the right to
rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay.”(1) How do the
authors argue for the importance of considering leisure as a human right?(2) Do you agree it is a fundamental right
that should be available to all people?If yes, why?And how might we
strive toward a goal of universal access?If not, why not?

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This article was downloaded by: [University of Notre Dame]
On: 01 July 2015, At: 10:47
Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered
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The International Journal of Human
Publication details, including instructions for authors and
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Worth what we decide: a defense of
the right to leisure
David L. Richards & Benjamin C. Carbonetti
Department of Political Science & Human Rights Institute , The
University of Connecticut , Storrs , CT , USA
Department of Political Science , The University of Connecticut ,
Storrs , CT , USA
Published online: 01 Oct 2012.
To cite this article: David L. Richards & Benjamin C. Carbonetti (2013) Worth what we decide:
a defense of the right to leisure, The International Journal of Human Rights, 17:3, 329-349, DOI:
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The International Journal of Human Rights, 2013
Vol. 17, No. 3, 329 –349,
Worth what we decide: a defense of the right to leisure
David L. Richardsa∗ and Benjamin C. Carbonettib
Downloaded by [University of Notre Dame] at 10:47 01 July 2015
Department of Political Science & Human Rights Institute, The University of Connecticut,
Storrs, CT, USA; bDepartment of Political Science, The University of Connecticut,
Storrs, CT, USA
One of the most routinely philosophically and politically attacked sections of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is article 24: ‘Everyone has the
right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and
periodic holidays with pay.’ Defending against these attacks is important. For
example, only the USA and Somalia, among UN member states, are not parties to the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). One reason for the USA’s status is
political opposition to CRC article 31, which maintains ‘States parties recognize the
right of the child to rest and leisure. . ..’ Our article defends article 24 from wellknown criticisms. We maintain rights are social constructs and, as evidence of social
construction, we provide a genealogy of article 24. We also address the social
psychology of rest/leisure and trends in actual state practice.
Keywords: Adequate Rest and Leisure; Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The post-WWII framework of internationally recognised universal human rights enshrined
in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has certainly
experienced a range of criticisms. These have varied widely from former Prime Minister of
Singapore Lee Kuan Yew’s cultural relativist charge that UDHR-based human rights are
essentially a political imposition of Western values1 to philosopher Richard Rorty’s critique
that the notion of universal human rights is founded on sentimentality and is no-more
rationally defensible than the values of those who would seek to pervert the goals of the
One of the most routinely attacked sections of the UDHR is article 24, which states
‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working
hours and periodic holidays with pay.’ Critics such as Cranston3 famously, among many
others, have labelled this right – particularly the component about paid holidays – as
derivative rather than fundamental, and ‘clearly the least-defensible of the social rights
listed in the UDHR’.4 Indeed these critics seem to hold up this right as an example of
what is wrong with current conceptualisations of human rights. We see these philosophical
attacks on the right to leisure being of great importance, as their spirit carries over into the
political sphere. For example, the United States of America and Somalia are the only two
United Nations (UN) member states not to have become a party to the UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child (1989)(CRC). One of the main reasons for the United States’ nonparty status is conservative political opposition to article 31 of the CRC that maintains

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# 2013 Taylor & Francis
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D.L. Richards and B.C. Carbonetti
‘States parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child. . ..’ Opponents of this article maintain
that it creates a ‘legally enforceable right to leisure’ for children.5 A broader opposition to
this right may be deduced from opposition to article 31, since we would not assume that any
legally enforceable right for the betterment of children’s lot in life would be repugnant.
Thus, there likely exists an opposition to the larger right to leisure in the UDHR. At the
end of the day, whether one supports or opposes this right, it is undeniably of political
Our goals in this article are primarily twofold. The first is to defend UDHR article 24
from some well-known criticisms. The second, is to implicitly suggest a common understanding of the right to leisure as being essentially a workers’ right that emerged from
the identification of a threat to human dignity – overwork. To these ends, we draw on
both communitarian and liberal principles, maintaining that rights are social constructs
and, as evidence of this notion of social construction in this particular case, we provide a
genealogy of article 24. Our implicit defence of the right to leisure is also informed by
both the social psychology of rest and leisure (demonstrating the fundamental importance
of the right to both mental and physical health) and trends in actual state practice (demonstrating that state respect for this right in practice is neither impossible, impractical, nor universally undesirable). From our examination, we conclude that not only are the rights in
UDHR 24 equal to all others in their contributions towards human dignity, but that their
inclusion in the UDHR, and debates around their conclusion, says something much
larger about the very nature of the idea of modern human rights itself – that, ultimately,
we are worth only as much as we decide we are worth.
Criticisms of UDHR 24
In this section we outline some well-known critiques of the rights to rest, leisure and paid
holidays and then address those critiques by arguing that the contribution of these rights to
human dignity are equal to that of any others set out in the UDHR. By defending these
rights we are also defending the ‘universal declaration model’, which posits that all
rights outlined in the UDHR are part of an ‘interdependent and indivisible whole’.6
However, unlike Donnelly, we do not employ the Rawlsian7 idea of overlapping consensus
as our justification for this model. Rather, we adopt an argument much closer to the work of
Walzer,8 Gewirth,9 and others who make the case that rights are inherently social creations
derived from membership within a particular community.
Arriving at a common understanding of a term is essential for further debate about the
concept the term represents. And, indeed, such conceptual debates abound in human scholarship, advocacy and practice. For example, the practice of torture is almost universally
condemned, in the general sense. Yet arguments exist over the definition of ‘torture’ in
the form of disagreements about whether particular individual practices constitute torture
proper.10 So, United Nations-based entities such as the Committee against Torture exist
to help make authoritative conceptual interpretations of treaty language (among other
things) ( We find ourselves on somewhat
novel ground regarding UDHR article 24, however, as critiques of these rights do not explicitly make the definitions of the terms ‘leisure’, ‘rest’ and ‘paid holidays’ part of their
critique. This is disappointing as doing so would seem helpful since the Committee on
The International Journal of Human Rights
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has made no general comments on the thematic issue
of leisure, rest or paid holidays (
htm). Thus, there is no common conception of these terms that may be formally
assumed.11 To understand critiques, therefore, we assume that critics of the rights to
leisure/rest/paid holidays view these rights as either (a) unnecessary for human dignity,
(b) too expensive from a cost/benefit perspective, and/or (c) something undeserved by
some constituency of humans, regardless of purpose or cost.
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Arguments against the right to adequate rest and leisure come mostly in two forms. Following Kunneman,12 we call the first of these the reductionist critique. This critique attacks not
only the right to adequate rest and leisure but also economic, social and cultural (ESC)
rights as a whole. Reductionists claim that ESC rights are not only impractical and impossible to fulfil as rights, but also that they are of a fundamentally different nature than Civil
and political rights (CP), and therefore are not rights at all.13 The second line of attack is
more implicit, involving a different sort of reduction we call essentialism. Scholars have
made many attempts to reduce the full list of human rights in the UDHR into shorter
lists of ‘basic rights’14 or ‘universal rights’.15 These accounts attempt to ‘trim the fat’, so
to speak, by developing a list of those human rights considered essential, from which all
other rights are derived. In this article we first engage reductionist challenges, we then challenge essentialism by maintaining that rights are social constructions and, therefore, cannot
be prioritised one over another on any foundational basis.
Reductionist critiques
Arguing against the right to leisure as being impractical to fulfil is most often associated
with Maurice Cranston,16 perhaps the most well-known critic of ESC rights. Although
an ardent defender of the idea of human or natural rights, Cranston takes great issue with
the entire subset of ESC rights, particularly the right to ‘periodic holidays with pay’
(included in UDHR article 24). He argues that a right with universal applicability must
be made distinct from ideals and that to conflate the two damages the very concept of
human rights. Claiming ESC rights make no sense, he proceeds to make the case that
these rights fail to satisfy his definition of a human right, ‘something that no one, anywhere,
may be deprived of without a grave affront to justice’.17 Unsurprisingly, Cranston defends
mainstream civil and political CP rights such as the rights not to be enslaved, extrajudicially
killed, or tortured, as well as to vote, engage in free speech, and have fair trials, among
others, to be ‘true’ rights.
For Cranston, CP rights pass a three-pronged test of practicability, universality and
paramount importance, whereas ESC rights do not. The first test, practicability, posits
that for something to be a right it must correspond to a practical and clearly prescribed
duty. This duty must represent a reasonable demand on the duty-bearer. ‘Rights bear a
close relationship to duties: and the first test of both is that of practicability’, Cranston
writes, ‘It is not my duty to do what it is physically impossible for me to do’.18 He
claims that economic rights, due to their high cost, are largely impossible to fulfil and therefore cannot be considered human rights. To demonstrate that CP rights are more practical
than ESC rights he asserts that they have a negative nature, as they ‘for the most
part. . .require governments, and other people generally, to leave a man alone’.19 Thus,
they are relatively easy to institute, per Cranston, but the positive actions required for
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D.L. Richards and B.C. Carbonetti
things such as social security and holidays with pay are impossible for most of the countries
in the world due to their lack of industrialisation and resources.20
Economic rights also fail Cranston’s second test of universality because, he argues, they
are earned, rather than inherent, and therefore can only belong to a ‘class of people’. So, for
example, holidays with pay can only be granted to those workers who are, by definition,
paid in the first place for their work. For Cranston, this feature of the right to holidays
with pay means that the right to holidays with pay is, by definition, not universal.21 Cranston’s third critique of ESC rights is they do not rise to the same level of paramount
importance as CP rights. This critique is discussed in the next section of the article.
Ignatieff,22 like Cranston, also believes in the primacy of CP rights over ESC rights,
and does so primarily on ‘pragmatic’ grounds. He claims that universal rights are those
rights that protect agency and that the most important and universally acceptable rights
are a minimal list of CP rights. For Ignatieff, a minimalist approach to rights solves
some of the major political problems associated with rights: Western exceptionalism and
imperialism.23 Exceptionalism exists because the West fails to hold itself to the same
human rights standards to which it holds others, and imperialism exists because expansive
lists of rights do not allow for non-Western societal and cultural variation. Exceptionalism
is damaging to rights, according to Ignatieff, because the world lacks clear standards of
when it must take action to ensure that rights are protected. This form of hypocrisy has
the effect of undermining the legitimacy of rights. Imperialism is a problem for human
rights, because rights that seem to be a Western construct, reflecting Western values, are
distasteful and unfair to many other cultures, societies and peoples. Thus, a comprehensive
list of rights, that includes many ESC rights, makes it extremely difficult for a worldwide
consensus, and therefore undermines what Ignatieff sees as the entire project of human
rights – protecting human agency. A minimalist standard that embraces mostly negative
rights (those requiring only government forbearance for respect), on the other hand,
affords different societies the maximum cultural and societal leeway to institute the
rights as they see fit, and draws a clear line in the sand about what rights are non-negotiable.
Therefore, for Ignatieff, a minimalist standard solves the problems of both exceptionalism
and imperialism.
Reductionists see ESC rights as different types of rights, that is, substantively different
in value than CP rights. This notion is not held by all critics of the right to leisure and it is
explicitly rejected by the essentialists discussed in the following section. Like Cranston,
Ignatieff is a classic reductionist because he sees most CP rights as negative, and sees
ESC rights, like the right to adequate rest and leisure, as requiring positive and impractical
action by states ill-equipped to institute them. Furthermore, he sees CP rights as generating
a clear cause of action for the international community when violated, whereas ESC rights,
due to the impossibility of immediately realising many of them, are unclear and undermine
the whole effort of human rights. Finally, he sees minimalist rights as being the most
politically palatable, a pragmatic argument for rights that is not in any way derived
(contra-essentialists) from the underlying foundation he supplies – protecting human
Essentialist/foundational critiques
We label as ‘essentialists’ those who attempt to create shortlists of ‘basic’ or ‘universal’
rights that diverge from the comprehensive list in the UDHR. While Cranston’s work is
reductionist, essentialist scholars nonetheless employ a concept akin to his idea of ‘paramount importance’. This is the idea that all rights must satisfy the commonsense criterion
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The International Journal of Human Rights
that no other right can be considered more important than the one under consideration. He
quips, ‘common sense knows that fire engines and ambulances are essential services,
whereas parks and holiday camps are not’.25 He claims the provision of these goods
would be a moral virtue, but would not constitute the moral duty necessary for a human
Two works of the essentialist school are particularly illustrative: Shue’s Basic Rights
and Talbott’s Which Rights Should be Universal?. Perhaps the most well-known attempt
to develop an essential list of rights is Shue’s ‘basic rights’ to subsistence, security, and
some liberty rights.26 His inclusion of subsistence rights as ‘basic’ differentiates him
from other human rights scholars, particularly reductionists, because it acknowledges
that some ESC rights are just as important as some CP rights and that without them CP
rights are empty, and vice versa. This basic recognition that someone who is starving is unlikely to care about the right to participate in politics is a long-standing argument against
Cranston’s position that CP rights are the only rights of paramount importance.27 Furthermore, Shue takes great pains to deny the principle held by some that CP rights are negative
in nature and ESC rights are inherently positive. He claims both positive and negative
actions must be taken to ensure both forms of rights, such as paying for police and
courts to ensure security rights and refraining from polluting food sources to ensure subsistence rights.
A slightly more comprehensive essentialist account of human rights is offered by
Talbott.28 He attempts to identify a basic and universal list of rights that avoids moral
imperialism while also not falling prey to charges of moral relativism. To do this, he
adopts what he calls the ‘equilibrium model’ for justifying universal moral principles.
This model strikes a balance between what he calls the ‘proof’ model, which stems from
finding an immutable foundation for moral principles, and the ‘inductive’ model which
takes behaviour and assumes moral principles from it. The top-down proof model approach
is the favourite straw man of moral sceptics who challenge moral foundationalists to prove
why anyone should behave morally. The bottom-up inductive m …
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