A bully in the playground : examining the role of neoliberal economic globalisation in children’s struggle to become ‘fully human’

Davidson, Jennifer (2010) A bully in the playground : examining the role of neoliberal economic globalisation in children’s struggle to become ‘fully human’. Law, Social Justice and Global Development, 16 (2). ISSN 1467-0437

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This article begins by exploring the Western historical progression of the conceptual place of children along a Property-Welfare-Rights continuum. It applies Baxi’s “logics of exclusion and inclusion” to the complex dynamic of children’s advancement in becoming ‘fully human’ through their achievement of internationally recognised human rights. It critically considers the comprehensive vulnerability of children based both on their evolving levels of development and on the multifaceted challenges of the application and enforcement of their rights. The ideological and practical realities influencing this evolution exist in an increasingly globalised world in which international economic dynamics play a particularly influential role. The character and substance of these are explored. This follows with an examination of the influence of these dynamics on both the environment in which the struggle for children’s rights to be recognised takes place, and on the ideological concepts of these rights themselves. It is proposed that the dominant form of globalisation, NEG, perpetuates ideological exclusionary criteria which thwart children’s achievement of becoming “fully human”. This is most evident in the neoliberal views on the paramount importance of the individual, and on the limited role for the state. It is the NEG perception of the child, in locating her/him within an individualistic framework and dismissing the wider societal context, which justifies at best a welfare-entitlement agenda and denies children rights. Further, this results in a justification of the effects of poverty, in particular for children of the South. This exclusion of children from bearing rights is achieved globally through NEG systems and processes which handicap the autonomy of states. The NEG maintains this exclusion of children through its deemed legitimate and commonsensical hegemony. Through these mechanisms, NEG bullies states into advancing a new form of colonialism that discriminates against children. The related way in which human rights discourse has itself been influenced by NEG ideology is also explored. The article concludes with the proposal that the effective recognition of children’s rights necessitates an understanding of the exclusionary criteria imposed by NEG. A fundamental modification of the terms and mechanisms within which NEG functions is essential to compensate for children’s unique and disproportionate vulnerabilities.