Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science


Whether globalization improves or undermines human rights is not a matter that can be observed in the short term. Globalization is the second “great transformation” spreading capitalism over the entire world. Many of its short-term effects will be negative. Nevertheless, its medium and long-term effects may well be positive, as it impels social changes that will result in greater moves to democracy, economic redistribution, the rule of law, and promotion of civil and political rights. Capitalism is a necessary, though hardly sufficient condition for democracy: democracy is the best political system to protect human rights.

This does not mean that the non-Western world will follow the exact same path to protection of human rights that the Western world followed. No international law obliged the West to protect human rights during its own era of economic expansion. Thus, the West could practice slavery, expel surplus populations, and colonize other parts of the world. Genocide and ethnic cleaning were not prohibited.


Copyright © 2005 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Human Rights Quarterly 27.1 (2005), 1-40. Reprinted with permission by The Johns Hopkins University Press.