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Transnational corporations in ‘bad states’: human rights duties, legitimate authority and the rule of law in international political theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2009

David Jason Karp
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University College London, UK
Corresponding
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Abstract

From an international political theory perspective, this paper assesses the justifiability of ascribing human rights obligations, in the form of international or extraterritorial law, onto transnational corporations (TNCs). The major policy prescriptions in favour of extending human rights duties to include TNCs become deeply problematic when considered in light of advocates’ claims that human rights rules, rather than a sovereign’s legal rules, are necessarily the rules that are truly authoritative and/or in line with a ‘global rule of law’. This paper discusses concepts such as authority, human rights and the rule of law, and juxtaposes these concepts: firstly, with one another; secondly, with the legal status quo about jurisdiction over companies; and thirdly, with corporations’ de facto transnationality in the contemporary international system. This paper discusses key similarities and differences between companies, states, and individuals, and highlights the relevance of these distinctions to those agents’ potential human rights duties. This paper concludes by arguing that the ‘TNC and human rights’ project is well worth pursuing, but according to different theoretical foundations than those currently endorsed by legal and policy analysts, and it suggests important directions for future research.

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Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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